Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stressed? Free yoga room at San Francisco airport

San Francisco International Airport has opened a "Zen Room" for travelers who want to do a little yoga before catching a flight.

Airport Director John Martin officially opened the facility inside Terminal 2.

It will be available to ticketed passengers who feel the need to meditate, stretch, or do whatever else one might do to get Zen-like before a flight.

The room is in Terminal 2 past security next to the "recompose area." It is marked "Yoga Room" and has a big glass door. There is no charge to use it.

To assist travelers in finding the room, signs have been placed throughout the airport showing a person in the Lotus position.

To find the Zen Room, just follow the lotus.

Let the mind games begin

By Winston A. Marbella

With the stunning disclosure by the House prosecutors of condominium units allegedly owned by Chief Justice Corona, the battle for control of the hearts and minds of the public has begun.

The Senate leadership lost no time in denouncing the disclosure at a press conference by House prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas as a violation of impeachment rules promulgated by the Senate, which will try the Chief Justice beginning Jan. 16. 

Emblematic of how the House prosecutors intended to proceed with trying the case in the public mind in violation of Senate rules, Tupas denied having violated anything because, he said, the trial had not begun officially.

Tupas's evasive technical explanation mirrored the cavalier defiance by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court suspending the validity of “watchlist orders” issued by the department to deny citizens their constitutional right to travel.

Tupas is chairman of the House committee on justice, which is under fire for having “railroaded” the transmittal of the impeachment complaint to the Senate without conducting the usual public hearings or floor debates.

Political muscle

In a muscular display of political clout, President Aquino caused the approval in five hours last month of the impeachment complaint by 188 House allies.  The eight articles of impeachment were exact replicas of the crimes levelled by Mr. Aquino on Mr. Corona in a string of well-publicized speeches prior to the House action.

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, head of Corona's defense team, said the Tupas disclosure proved that the House had a “weak” case.  “They are really trying to demonize the Chief Justice... there could be no motive whatsoever, except (to sway) public opinion and to portray Corona as a violator of the law and a tax evader.”

In his reply to the Senate on the House charges, Corona had disclosed owning five properties.

Over the Catholic Churdh-owned Radio Veritas, several bishops cautioned the public against attempts to mold their mind.  Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said “the public must learn to be critical and not be quick to judge because nothing has been proven yet.”

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said the presentation of documents suggesting that Corona had amassed illegal wealth was “a strategy” to ensure a successful impeachment.


Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said, “The problem is that some parties seem to have a mind-conditioning agenda.”  Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said  “he (Tupas) is already violating the Senate rules.”

More direct to the point, Sen. Panfilo Lacson suggested that the senator-judges “throw our impeachment rules out the window or straight at (the House prosecutors') faces.”

“As a senator-judge, I cannot sit idly by and watch blatant violations of our rules,” Lacson said in a text message to a newspaper.  He said that with “such undisciplined public presentation of evidence... the Senate may lose control of the situation.”

“And I am certain it will damage not just the Senate as an impeachment court but the sacredness of the whole impeachment process as well,” Lacson said.

Another former military officer like Lacson, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, said, “It does not serve public interest when they hold a press conference for this.”

Junior opinion

A junior officer in the Philippine Military Academy disagreed with his seniors.  Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who probably knows something about psychological warfare, agreed with the House prosecutros' disclosure.

Trillanes said: “They are just trying to win over  the public to their position, which is a good strategy.  It is but part of the impeachment process, which is more political than judicial in nature.”

Two University of the Philippines authors,  Carmelo V. Sison and  Florin T. Hilbay, wrote that impeachment is described as a political process because it is an act given to Congress, a political branch of government whose members are elected representatives of the people.  

But the Constitution itself prescribes strict procedures to guide the impeachment process, like determination of probable cause, the Rules of Court and the rules of evidence. 

'Impartial justice' 

The co-authors wrote: “That the senators are made to take an oath to 'do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws' meams that the impeachment process is a political act arrived at through the observance of legal proceedings.”  

Sison and Hilbay added: “Therefore, the process of impeachment would necessarily involve political considerations as the outcome is determined by duly elected representatives of the people, but, because this is a trial, the Senate must observe due process and respect the rights of the officer impeached.”

These constitutional precepts explain why the Senate has adopted its rules on impeachment, which disallow discussions on the merits of the case while the trial is going on.  The rules apply to all parties in the case, including the senator-judges, the complainant congressmen, the respondent, the lawyers and their witnesses, Sen. Francis Escudero explained.

The head of Corona's defense team, retired Justice Cuevas, said, ”We will definitely invite the attention of the impeachment court that there should be some remedy to stop this kind of trial (by publicity).”

“It's a violation of the very rules of the impeachment court,” he said.  “It's like they are  arguing this case before the public.”

A few good men

“They are good lawyers, all 11 of them,” Cuevas said, referring to the House prosecutors.  “Why release the alleged evidence to the press?”

The answer is as plain as day: The House prosecutors are doing this precisely because they are good lawyers.  

Being good lawyers, they are smart enough to know they are trying this case before the public through the media.  The Senate trial is just a formality and the senators' votes (16 needed to convict) are just a constitutional requirement.

As Senator Trillanes pointed out, “This is a political trial.”

No ifs, buts, whys, wherebys or wherefores about it.  Just therefores.

Impeachers shame Goebbels in propaganda

By Winston A . Marbella

By continuing to prosecute Supreme Court Chief Justice in public through the media, House prosecutors are improving the book on propaganda principles made famous by Adolf Hitler's psychological warfare chief, Joseph Goebbels.

Without having to pay a tuition fee, the public is getting real-life education on the art of propaganda from no less than the modern masters themselves.   

In fact, the House panel that will prosecute chief Justice Renato Corona has earned a well-deserved tribute from Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, one of 23 senator-judges who will sit at the impeachment trial.  

Senator Trillanes is a former military officer who led an unsuccessful putsch against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo known famously as the “Oakwood Mutiny.”  While in detention, he ran and won a seat in the Senate in 2007.  He was granted amnesty by President Aquino when he took over in 2010.  

Given this background, Senator Trillanes must know a thing or two about psychological warfare, so his tribute to the House prosecutors should not be taken lightly.  It carries with it the pain and joy of experience, as fire tempers a samurai sword.  This is what he had to say about the House prosecutors' adept use of propaganda:

“They are just trying to win over the public to their position, which is a good strategy  It is but part of the impeachment process, which is more political than judicial in nature.”  In an earlier interview, Trillanes, a straight talker, had described the impeachment process as “a political trial.” 

Trial by publicity

The temptation to use the trial for grandstanding is strong, especially for those running for election in the 2013 polls.  The glare of publicity can make instant celebrities of those who know how to exploit the trial, saving millions of pesos worth of campaign propaganda later.

Trillanes's tribute to the House impeachment panel came after lead prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas called a press conference to disclose publicly documents allegedly showing Mr. Corona owning a residential condominium.

Tupas promptly got a rap in the knuckles from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who will preside at the impeachment trial.  “He should read the rules,” Enrile calmly said, as if lecturing a truant law student.

The impeachment rules prohibit parties to the case from commenting on the merits of the case outside the trial.

'Throw the book'

Other senator-judges were less than courteous.  Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the senator-judges should “throw our impeachment rules out the window or straight at (the House prosecutors') faces.”

A less-than penitent Tupas vowed, “No more disclosure (of documents) for the meantime or until Jan. 16 when the formal trial begins.”  Then he slipped, identifying the true target of his disclosure: “The public at least is well-informed of our position,”

The deputy spokesperson of the House prosecutors, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, promised: “I don't think there will be any more release officially of documents.”

The next day, newspapers carried reports of another document “leaked” by unidentified House prosecutors identifying properties allegedly owned by Corona.  It was then clear what Angara meant by “any more  release officially of documents.”  They would be leaked out “unofficially” by unidentified House sources.

The head of Corona's defense team, former Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, protested: “They are really trying to demonize the Chief Justice... (to sway) public opinion and to portray Corona as a  violator of the law and a tax evader.”

Behavior pattern

If the House prosecutors seem to be following a rule book other than the impeachment rules, you are right.  Their wanton disregard of the the rules have all been written before by a person named Joseph Goebbels.
Goebbels was appointed Reichsminister for propaganda and national enlightenment in 1933. From then until his death, Goebbels used all media of education and communications to further Nazi goals, instilling in the Germans the concept of Adolf Hitler as a veritable god and of their destiny as the rulers of the world. 
As Reichsminister, Goebbels was given complete control over radio, press, cinema, and theater.  Later he also regimented all German culture. Goebbels placed his brilliant insight into mass psychology in his most virulent propaganda campaign against the Jews. 

On May 1, 1945, as Soviet troops were storming Berlin, Goebbels killed himself. 

Principles of propaganda

The following summary of Goebbels' principles of propaganda are based upon Goebbels' Principles of Propaganda by Leonard W. Doob, published in Public Opinion and Propaganda; A Book of Readings edited for The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues:

1. The propaganda consequences of an action must be considered in planning that action. 
2. Propaganda must affect the enemy's policy and action... by goading the enemy into revealing vital information about himself.

3. To be successful, propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium. 
4. Credibility alone must determine whether propaganda output should be true or false. 
5. Black rather than white propaganda may be employed when the latter is less credible or produces undesirable effects. 

Using prestigious leaders
6. Propaganda may be facilitated by leaders with prestige. 
7. Propaganda must be carefully timed. 
a. The communication must reach the audience ahead of competing propaganda.
b. A propaganda campaign must begin at the optimum moment
c. A propaganda theme must be repeated, but not beyond some point of diminishing effectiveness

8. Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans. 
a. They must evoke desired responses which the audience previously possesses.
b. They must be capable of being easily learned.
c. They must be utilized again and again, but only in appropriate situations
d. They must be boomerang-proof
Hate targets

9. Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred. 
10. Propaganda cannot immediately affect strong counter-tendencies; instead it must offer some form of action or diversion, or both. 

If we see examples of the above in the run-up to the impeachment trial, the similarities may not be entirely coincidental.

Speaking over Radio Veritas, Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said “the public must learn to be critical and not be quick to judge because nothing has been proven yet.”  

Now we know better.  Forewarned is forearmed.

100 witnesses may turn trial to numbers circus

By Winston A. Marbella

With her blood pressure rising to dangerous levels, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago demanded that the the House prosecutors in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona speed things up by submitting a list of witnesses they will present.

Rep. Niel Tupas, chief prosecutor, said he had to consult with the other prosecutors.  Whereupon Senator Santiago's blood pressure shot up higher. “You should know!” she screamed at Tupas.  “Don't you have a trial brief?”

A trial brief is not a piece of undergarment but a document lawyers prepare detailing the witnesses they intend to call and evidence they plan to submit at the trial.  It makes the trial better organized and speedy.

Mercury rising

The exchange between Santiago and Tupas happened on the day the House prosecutors were also publicly scolded for lumping together several charges in one article of impeachment, a violation of their own impeachment rules.  

Rather than further delay the trial by sending the impeachment complaint back to the House for amendment, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile thought it would be speedier just to fix the faulty article. He called an executive session of the senator-judges to fix the House prosecutors' lapses.

“I'm sad to say that there was fault in the crafting of the pleading,” Enrile said in explaining the impeachment court's action.  “And that is why we had to correct it in a caucus.”

In gratitude, Tupas asked Enrile to be “more liberal” in conducting the trial.  “Tel me how much more you want me to be liberal,” Enrile told off Tupas.

Cheaper by the dozen

In response to Senator Santiago's demand that they get more organized to avoid wasting time, Tupas submitted over the weekend a list of 100 witnesses, including Supreme Court justices, media reporters, and doctors.

Informed of the number of witnesses for the prosecution, Senator Enrile exclaimed, “Oh, my God!”  He stressed that “unnecessary delays will not be tolerated,” a newspaper reported.  In Monday's hearing, Enrile suggested that the prosecutors and defense meet and agree on their witnesses.

Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III, who controls the flow of the trial from the floor, told a newspaper reporter curtly in a phone interview:  “I wonder who's delaying the impeachment trial now.”

Defense lawyer and spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III said the trial was “not about numbers but the quality and substance of the witnesses' testimony.”

Senator Santiago just laughed: “Witnesses are weighed, not numbered.”

'Cause for concern'

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the long list of witnesses was a “cause for concern.”  He said, “if (the prosecutors) are serious about presenting all these witnesses, then we face the prospects of a prolonged trial.”

The Corona defense panel said they would present only 15 witnesses.

On top of the 100 witnesses, Tupas said the prosecutors planned to present 300 pieces of documentary evidence.

Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, a House prosecution spokesperson, said, “People might say that having too many witnesses would bog down the trial further, but we don't intend to put all the witnesses in the stand.”

So what was the list for?

'Senate should work'

To add insult to injury, another prosecution spokesperson, Rep Juan Edgardo Angara, said, “We are willing to work.  If the Senate says we will work, we will work.  It's their call,” Tanada told a newspaper.

Angara was referring to suggestions that the senators should work during the scheduled congressional break to speed up the trial.

Sen. Ralph Recto, an economist, said, “There are so many things that the government has to do.  That will affect the Senate's ability to legislate.  Maybe they can trim their list.”

Sen. Joker Arroyo said, “The cat is out of the bag.  Does the prosecution need 100 witnesses to be able to remove the Chief Justice from office?  At the rate the trial is proceeding, we can't be finished till the end of 2012.”

“The trial is hampered... because of the articles of impeachment transmitted to the Senate, which were wantonly prepared and the root cause of all the arguments,” Arroyo said.

Mob rule

The concept of “tyranny of numbers” traces its roots to ancient Greece, which used the word ochlocracy (“mob rule”) to describe a rampaging, unreasoning majority imposing its tyrannical will over a minority.

The author David Boyle has written a book using the phrase for its title, adding a biting subtitle, “Why counting can’t make us happy.”

Boyle tells the story of the 18th-century prodigy Jedediah Buxton in his first trip to the theater to watch a performance of Richard III.  Asked whether he had enjoyed it, Buxton replied that the dances had taken 5,202 steps to complete and that the actors had uttered 12,445 words.

Boyle says in dismay: “Nothing about what the words said, about the winter of our discontent made glorious summer; nothing about the evil hunchback king.”  He continues:

“Buxton is in some ways a fearsome symbol of the modern age, in which we count everything but see the significance of nothing.

“...we encounter such ‘calculating’ man-machines almost every day: the  academic who refuses to pass judgment on any problem, no matter how urgent, because there hasn’t been enough research; the politician who is so obsessed with opinion polls he no longer trusts his gut instincts...”

Lost in translation

Asserting that “the more we count, the less we understand,” Boyle goes on to tell another story we can all understand: “When Pepsi had its slogan ‘Come alive with the Pepsi generation’ translated into Chinese, it was understood as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.’”

“We have reached a point where measuring things doesn’t work anymore.  It is a counting crisis, born out of using numbers to distill the sheer complexity of life into something manageable.”

Boyle concludes: “The closer you get to measuring what’s important, the more it escapes you.  Because number-crunching brings a kind of blindness with it.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

Corn may be good for diabetics, athletes

By Winston A. Marbella

Eating cooked white corn grits may be one good way to reduce the risk of diabetes, a Department of Agriculture official says. 

Regional Corn Coordinator Felizardo Salomes says white corn processed into grits may be a good staple food for diabetics because it has a higher amylose content that makes it harder to digest.

He says white corn also has a low Glycemic Index (GI),   meaning its carbohydrates break down more slowly, thus gradually releasing glucose into the bloodstream. 

Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by too much sugar or glucose in the blood  Diabetics are advised to shift to food with low GI. 

He says studies have shown that low GI food like corn enhances endurance and stamina among Filipino athletes. 

A regional forum on white corn is being planned to promote its health benefits, reports Bong Garcia  of the Zamboanga Sun Star.

Give Congressman Farinas his day in court

By Winston A. Marbella

During his coaching days when he was past his prime as a basketball player, Robert Jaworski, one of the best we have produced, would come to court in his player's uniform.  This was because he wanted to be able to join the fray whenever his team teetered on the brink of losing the game.

This was exactly how Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas must have felt on the seventh day of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate impeachment court.  Farinas could not bear his prosecutors' team getting massacred and turned into ground meat to be feasted on. He wanted to join the fray and take matters into his own hands.

Unlike many in Congress who studied law but never practiced it, Farinas is a veteran trial lawyer.  Those who have seen him in court swear he is one of the best.  No wonder he wanted to join the fray.  His instincts are still those of a trial lawyer.


Like Senators Franklin Drilon and Ralph Recto before him, Farinas got frustrated by the performance of his prosecuting team.  But unlike the two senators, he is a prosecutor who does not have to show impartiality as a judge.  Allowing Farinas to take the floor as prosecutor will also remove pressure from Senators Drilon and Recto, who itch to do the prosecutors' job when they falter.

(A footnote is needed here for Senators Drilon and Recto.  As senator-judges they are expected to behave as impartial judges in the trial.  But President Aquino compromised their positions by making Corona's impeachment a Liberal Party advocacy.  Now they are suspect.  In fact, the defense panel has asked that Drilon inhibit himself for “lawyering” for the prosecution.)

Saying he was no mere “decoration,” Farinas walked out on his fellow prosecutors in the middle of the trial  last week.  The prosecution was being mauled for “faulty preparation” of the impeachment complaint.

“Bahala na kayo diyan,” Farinas was overheard saying as he stormed out of the session hall.  “Puro sila, 'we submit,'” he said, referring to the prosecutors' repeated acquiescence to the court's rulings.

'Faulty complaint'

Appearing at the trial after a bout with high-blood pressure, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago had raised the possibility of the prosecution having to go back to the Lower House to amend its impeachment complaint.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who presides at the trial, said, “I am sad to say that there was fault in the crafting of the pleading.  And that is why we had to correct it in a caucus.”

Enrile said that the court had been “very liberal” in accommodating lapses by the prosecution just to get the trial moving.  

In a “blitzkrieg” five-hour session last December, 188 congressmen, at the urging of President Aquino, fast-tracked the impeachment complaint to the Senate.  The House denied that they rushed it, but the lapses now stalling the trial prove they did.

Did not sign

Farinas was one of those who did not sign the complaint because he said he needed more time to read it.  Despite this, he was made a member of the prosecuting panel.

Under the Constitution, the House prosecutes all impeachment cases against specified high officials, and the Senate conducts the trial. If found guilty of the crimes alleged in the complaint, Corona will be removed from office and barred from holding any other public office for life.


Farinas said he wanted to take the cudgels for his beleaguered co-prosecutors but was prevented from doing so.

“I'm having a difficult time because I'm used to being in charge,” he told reporters in Filipino.  “Now I'm a member and they're telling me not to. That's not my style.”

Asked if he would rejoin the panel when the trial resumed, he said, “If they still need me.  If not, what would I be?  A decoration?”

It had been a rough week for the House prosecutors.  They were scolded repeatedly and publicly humiliated for coming to court unprepared.


Sen. Joker Arroyo requested Enrile to call the attention of the House spokespersons for violating Senate rules prohibiting discussing the merits of the case in public.

Arroyo cited the specific case of the income tax returns of the Corona family.  These had only been marked and not yet offered as evidence, or admitted by the court as evidence, yet the media already had copies.

Arroyo said evidence did not become public record until the three-step process was completed.  He called a person's income tax returns “sacrosanct” and should be held in confidence to protect a person's right to privacy until they were admitted in evidence in court.

Enrile affirmed Arroyo's points and issued the necessary admonitions.


Later Chief House Prosecutor Niel Tupas announced that Farinas had been appointed Deputy Chief Prosecutor and would participate actively in the trial.

It was not clear if Farinas would still be able to save the prosecutors' case.  But considering that they seem to have hit rock bottom, there seems to be no way to go but up. And they need all the help they can get.

We can only wish Congressman Farinas the best of luck.  A legal gladiator, especially a good one, must be allowed to fight.

Otherwise, he becomes a mere decoration with adrenalin pumping through his veins.  And that is hazardous to health, as Senator Defensor-Santiago knows only too well.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

For Senator Santiago, tea and sympathy

By Winston A. Marbella

Being hypertensive myself, I am happy to share this bit of news to Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago:  drinking up to eight cups of tea a day lowers blood pressure and could prevent heart disease, Australian scientists have found. 

Researchers at the University of Western Australia gave black leaf tea, such as Earl Grey or English breakfast to volunteers with normal to high blood pressure, the Times of India reported.

They were given drinks containing 429 milligrams of the plant chemical polyphenols -- or the equivalent of eight and a half cups of tea a day. 

A second group was given a tea-flavoured placebo without the chemical. 


After six months, the blood pressure of the tea-drinking group had fallen by between two and three mmHg, the measurement of pressure used in medicine. 

A blood pressure fluctuating with the heartbeat between 112 and 63 mmHg is considered healthy, while a reading fluctuating between 140 and 90 is deemed high. 

If the experiment was followed by the general population, the number of people with high blood pressure would be cut by 10 percent and the risk of heart disease would fall by between seven and 10 percent, the researchers said.

"Our study has demonstrated for the first time to our knowledge that long-term regular consumption of black tea can result in significantly lower blood pressures in individuals with normal to high-normal range blood pressures," the team, led by Jonathan Hodgson, wrote in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. 

Add milk, too

Adding milk to tea also does not affect the body's ability to absorb polyphenols, earlier studies have suggested. 

Green tea is believed to have many health benefits as it is high in antioxidants. It is said to help in weight loss, prevent glaucoma and reduce risk of cancer. 

At last week's trial, Senator Santiago's blood pressure rose to a dangerous 180 while she was castigating prosecutors for their sloppy work at the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.  Her doctors sent her home.

But what are we going to do without her?

Just thinking about that makes my blood pressure rise.

Triumph of brains over age

By Winston A. Marbella

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, who heads the defense team of Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial, is four years younger than Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, 88.  Both are shining examples of senior citizens who, by sheer power of legal scholarship and mastery of their craft, are shaming lawyers more than half their age.

By his masterful navigation of the trial through uncharted impeachment waters, Senator Enrile is demonstrating how an understanding of the spirit of the law, more than just the letter thereof, can be useful in moving the trial speedily but fairly.  Enrile has not only been fair to both prosecution and defense, but has oftentimes bent over backward to guide the younger and less wise prosecutors along the way to speed up the process.

The defense team, on the other hand, hardly needs any help from Enrile in going about its work.  At times, it would even appear that Enrile and Cuevas are able to communicate with each other in legal shorthand because of the wisdom of their accumulated experience.

Back to Plaza Miranda

To redeem lost honor, Chief House Prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas begged for a few minutes at the end of the first four days of trial to request Enrile to remind Cuevas to refrain from “lecturing down” on the prosecutors on points of law.  His appeal came after a particularly amusing episode when Cuevas admonished his former student (whose name I will omit because it is not my intention to embarrass him further). who dared use a legal precedent he allegedly learned from Cuevas.

Cuevas quickly retorted that his former student, now a congressman, must have been absent when the point of law was discussed.  The audience laughed.

Over the previous weekend, the House prosecutors, as they are wont to do, took the case again before the bar of public opinion.  Here, where nobody is under oath and there is no Enrile to give them a rap in the knuckles, the House prosecutors went to town, so to speak.  Metaphorically, they took the case to Plaza Miranda, that historic plaza in front of Quiapo church that earned a disreputable place in history for colorful political rhetoric, truthful or concocted, to amuse the madding crowd. 

'To the barricades!'

Freed from the legal but not ethical constraints of the impeachment rules, the House prosecutors, aided by allegedly impartial senator-judges who brazenly help them along when they get stalled in the presentation of evidence, publicly excoriated Cuevas for supposedly delaying the trial with his legal objections.

I was personally at the Senate gallery when this incident happened.  As was demonstrated that entire opening week of the trial, it was the ineptitude of the prosecution panel that delayed the trial.  To cite a particular day of infamy, the prosecutors themselves asked for a postponement on the second day so that they could get their act together.

In the particular episode I witnessed, the House prosecutors were trying to pull a fast one by making out-of-order remarks while marking evidence.  Enrile explained that he was allowing them to proceed subject to objections by Cuevas because he wanted the public to understand the points of law that Cuevas was explaining through his objections.

A more masterful lawyer I still have to see when it comes to citing legal presidents off the top of his head.  Cuevas is 84 years old, but his years of experience and legal scholarship are clearly evident in the legal erudition he is showing at the trial.

Who is smarter?

But we should not underestimate the House prosecutors.  They may have been laggards in law school, but they certainly know how to get elected to Congress.  That means they know how to sway votes, which comes from a skill that wins the hearts and minds of   people.  

A perceptive observer of the trial is the eminent constitutional law expert Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a former dean of the Ateneo School of Law and a member of the Constitutional Commission that wrote the 1987 Constitution.

Digressing from his normal legal commentaries but noting a crucial point nonetheless, Fr. Bernas gave a nuanced observation on the opening statements of the prosecution and the defense teams.  Bernas said the style of defense lawyer Eduardo de los Angeles was "very professorial...orderly, legal and so forth."

On the other hand, he said, Iloilo Congressman Tupas Jr.'s opening statement for the prosecution was delivered "Plaza Miranda" style to appeal to the popular sentiment.


In a newspaper column, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law, reminded the senator-judges that the judgment they will make eventually should be based solely on evidence and the law. 

He said: “I am therefore disturbed by suggestions that in deciding, the senators must be sensitive to popular sentiment. Stripped of the verbiage, the suggestion seems to be that senators should judge as popular sentiment would have them judge. 

“If that is so, my question remains: Why go through the motions of a trial at all? Public sentiment is obviously against the Chief Justice. If the nation then is not to be treated to a long-running, expensive production of high drama with an already prepared script, then (the impeachment trial) must be an honest-to-goodness trial.”

Fr. Aquino, a lawyer, stressed that strict adherence to the Rule of Law prevents abuses by the state or by any citizen. He said: “Under the Rule of Law, a State is answerable to the law, as is any citizen. The State has to be controlled through institutional techniques especially designed to render possible the exercise of power and render its abuse impossible.” 

“When agents of the State believe themselves empowered to act in any which way against any citizen, ex-President or ex-peace-loving, law-abiding Filipino, that is exactly when the problem of control becomes urgent,” Fr. Aquino said.

To use a colloquial expression, the emerging problem in the impeachment trial seems to be, Who will police the police?  That seems to be a job for the courts that are now, ironically, on trial.  This is why objections grounded in the spirit of the law serve the truth and, ultimately, justice.

Made in PH: Pain-free cancer treatment

By Winston A. Marbella

A cancer treatment currently under development promises fewer side effects and less pain for cancer patients, GMA News reports. 

Developed by a team led by Dr. Jay Lazaro of the Institute of Biology, University of the Philippines-Diliman, the treatment uses immuno-liposomes as carriers of drugs in cancer therapy. It is currently being tested on mice and part of a project funded by the Department of Science and Technology.

"This kind of breakthrough technology is part of DOST’s drug discovery program for 2012,” says DOST Secretary Mario Montejo. “It lists high in the priorities under the Department's antibody molecular oncology R&D in our search for anti-cancer treatments suitable to Filipinos.”

The more common method of treating cancer, chemotherapy, damages normal cells, so patients experience unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting, allergic reactions, fatigue, weight loss, changes in taste and smell, loss of appetite and hair loss. A treatment that affects fewer normal cells will result in fewer side effects.

The immuno-liposome method coats cancer-treating drugs with liposomes, or microscopic artificial sacs that can be filled with drugs.  The technology is more specific as it targets only cancer cells. Since there are fewer non-cancer cells affected by the treatment, it results in less toxicity and the patient feels less pain.

The team is testing the technology using Caelyx, a cancer drug. However, “the technology can be eventually used for any other drug and any other illness,” says Dr. Lazaro.

Cancer treatment using Caelyx may cost from P40,000 to 45,000 for every 20 mg. Although the immuno-liposome treatment may cost higher, it can potentially be more effective because it is target-specific and results in less toxicity. This could mean less fatigue for the patient and a greater chance of beating and recovering against the disease.

According to the Department of Health, cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the Philippines, behind communicable diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

'When enemy is making a mistake, don't disturb!'

By Winston A. Marbella

My friend Billy Esposo, the columnist, is an avid student of military strategy.  I remember one lazy afternoon while sipping coffee at the Manila Pen lobby, he regaled me with a story I will never forget.

Billy was reminiscing his halcyon days as chief of Cory Aquino's media bureau in the days leading to the historic Edsa Revolution in 1986.  Among his favorite stories about military strategy was the Battle of Waterloo, a quaint town in Belgium where Napoleon Bonaparte suffered a decisive military defeat that ended his dreams of empire for France.

Waterloo has since become a picturesque metaphor for a decisive military defeat. As Billy told the story, the tide of battle (I like that elegant phrase) swung back and forth that entire day.  But the lesson he remembered most was that it hinged decisively on a small piece of territory which determined who had the upper hand at that particular moment in the battle.  

Translated to the 64 squares of a chessboard, that decisive piece of territory would be the four center squares.  Control them and you have the game in your pocket.  The rest of the 60 squares do not matter.  This is Lesson Number One.

But what made the conversation memorable was Lesson Number 2.  Briefly stated, it is, “When the enemy is busy making a mistake, do not disturb him.”

The lesson comes to mind today because of what is happening on three battle fronts: the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, the viral images that caught Presidential Political Affairs Adviser Ronald Llamas apparently patronizing pirated DVDs in a shopping mall, and the plan of congressmen to go on a nationwide barnstorming educational campaign to ostensibly explain the impeachment to the poor barrio folks who have limited access to media, or DVDs.

These three seemingly unrelated episodes constitute the four center squares of the playing field, the strategic control of which will have far-ranging effects on the presidency of Benigno S. Aquino III.  But first a quick rewind.

Strategy lesson

Strategic thinkers have long wondered why, of all issues, President Aquino would stake his presidency on the impeachment of Corona.  The President could have chosen other issues with more palpable impact on the common man.  The impeachment of Corona and the incarceration of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the conventional wisdom went, were important moral issues.  But the gut issues of poverty, jobs and food were probably equally important, if not more, to the teeming masses who live below the poverty line.

Christian S. Monsod, the legal aid lawyer of peasants and farmers and former member of President Cory's Constitutional Commission that wrote our basic law in 1987, has pointedly observed, “The impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona and the broadened debate on constitutional issues are not going to bring out masses of the poor to take sides.  To them the turmoil is a power struggle within the leadership class and it distracts from the central issue in our society poverty and gross inequalities.”

Be that as it may, Mr. Aquino chose to stake his presidency on his moral crusade to clean up government.  To prepare for this battle, he even reluctantly gave up a prized toy, a sports car called Porsche (pronounced Portia) that raised doubts about his blatantly feudal haciendero habits.


Very early into his presidency, Mr. Aquino was also criticized for turning a blind eye to ethical concerns over his personal friends in government, all lumped together in the deprecatory name, “Kaibigan, Kabarilan, etc.”  Which brings us to the unfortunate DVD episode.

Presidential Adviser Llamas, like the President, fancies guns. Which qualifies him to the KKK group.  He has admitted to occasionally going to the firing range with the President.  

While on a trip abroad, his SUV figured in an accident, and his bodyguards were caught on camera unloading an AK-47 assault rifle from the SUV.  He weathered that storm.  Now he is under the weather again.

What makes this one worse is that it is happening in the middle of the storm over the impeachment case, where House prosecutors are having a horrible time arising from their own ineptitude in prosecuting the case.  From avenging heroes in a morality play waging battle against the forces of evil, the House prosecutors have become the laughing stock of law students and the public.  But let's leave this for a while and go back to the DVD episode.

The matter apparently needed the deft touches of the spin doctors.  Which made it even more amusing.

Sellers beware!

The chief of the legal division of the Optical Media Board (OMB) stressed that only the sellers of pirated copies of copyrighted material like video and audio discs are penalized under the country’s anti-piracy law, the People's Journal reported.

Lawyer Cocoy Padilla pointed out that the buyers or possessors of pirated DVDs are not criminally liable under Republic Act 9230, otherwise known as the Optical Media Act of 2003.

Only those engaged in the manufacture and selling of pirated goods can be punished, Padilla stressed in a television interview.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., reiterated the President’s position that the purported purchase by Llamas of pirated discs was not among his top priorities at the moment.

“That’s a statement that when viewed vis-à-vis the overall agenda of the President as the leader of our nation, there are more pressing problems and other issues that must be addressed,” said Coloma, also in Filipino, according to the People's Journal.

The more pressing issues

Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda supported a plan by congressmen to mount information campaigns in their districts to explain why Corona should be ousted.

Lacierda said the information campaign was not a “Plan B” for a “People Power” in case Corona was acquitted by the Senate.

“I don’t think it is meant for a People Power. It is not something we are planning to do,” Lacierda said. Neither, he added, would the information campaign influence or put pressure on the senators to convict Corona.

At this point I am reminded of how the Corona defense lawyers must be chuckling over the Billy Esposo principle: “When the enemy is busy making a mistake, do not disturb him.”

Friday, January 27, 2012

Warning! Our kids learn wrong values from impeachers

By Winston A. Marbella

Back on duty after a bout with high-blood pressure, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago might just go back to sick bay if the House prosecutors do not shape up.

Santiago missed the first week of trial on advice of her hypertension doctors.  Catching up on the second week of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, Santiago saw her blood pressure rise to astronomical heights when she caught Chief House Prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas coming to court unprepared.

“Do not shake your head at me!” she stormed at Tupas when he could not answer her question how many witnesses the prosecutors planned to present at the trial.

Judge Santiago

“How many documentary evidence are you planning to present?” Santiago asked Tupas in a tone of voice reminiscent of her days as a judge in a regional trial court.

Tupas said he was going to ask his fellow prosecutors.

`“You should know!” Santiago screamed.  “Don't you have a trial brief?” she asked Tupas.

A trial brief is a document lawyers prepare detailing the witnesses they plan to present and the documentary evidence they will submit to the court to buttress their case.

Frustrated, Santiago turned to the defense.  Retired Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas, head of Corona's defense team, enumerated the number of witnesses and documents he would present, eliciting an approving smile from Santiago.

Calming down, Santiago explained why prosecutors should come to court prepared.  It helps move the trial speedily.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” she lectured on her second day in court.

With her mastery of the Rules of Court and rules of evidence, Santiago is proving to be an able support for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who has been patiently tutoring the prosecutors how to go about their work properly.

Mentor, tutor

In various media interviews and pronouncements from the chair, Enrile said he had bent over backward in accommodating lapses of the prosecution and explaining his rulings patiently so that the viewing public would understand the impeachment process.

In return, Tupas disrespected Enrile by asking the presiding officer to give the prosecutors more leeway.  In a series of questions seeking to define what Tupas wanted, Enrile managed to teach Tupas a few lessons in basic trial procedure.  Tupas yielded meekly.

In another learning episode that did not get much media attention, Sen. Gregorio Honasan asked both defense and prosecuting teams whether they still believed in the constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence.

Cuevas answered without hesitation.  Tupas stumbled for a split second.  Recovering his composure, he said he did.  But his eyes looked downward in apparent embarrassment and, for a moment, my high-definition television monitor seemed to catch a blush of embarrassment sweep through his face. 

But I may have been imagining things.  For no sooner had the trial adjourned for the day when House spokespersons had a field day again putting self-serving spins to the proceedings in brazen defiance of Senate rules prohibiting discussing the merits of the case outside the court.

Propaganda team

The leader of the House propaganda panel is Rep. Miro Quimbo.  His adroit twists of logic can put Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's chief propaganda minister, to shame.  Assisting Quimbo are Rep. Erin Tanada and Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, sons of illustrious fathers and who have promising careers ahead of them.

Since I know their fathers, I will indulge myself in some unsolicited parental guidance.  They should distance themselves from their colleague and save their careers.  Already they are being mentioned as potential candidates for the Senate.  They should detach themselves from bad influence.

The temerity of the House prosecutors is a sight to behold.  They think they are able to fool the people.  Now, their colleagues are threatening to go on a nationwide campaign ostensibly to educate the people of their efforts to reform the judiciary.

Worst SALN violators

Taxpayers are asking where they are getting the supposed educational funds.  Meanwhile, the Philippine Council for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) has reported that despite their best efforts, they have only managed to get the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) of 185 of the 188 House impeachers.

The PCIJ report also said the worst violators of the SALN disclosure laws were Congress and the Office of the President.  Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, whose brilliant legal mind will certainly take him places, says they are not on trial here.  A tolerant House Speaker Sonny Belmonte says the people should focus on Corona's SALN.

A Catholic prelate, Bishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, has detected a sudden jump in President Aquino's personal wealth as reflected in his SALN.  The good bishop suggests that the President must explain in order to keep his moral ascendancy over his moral crusade to clean up the government.

Meanwhile, the President's political affairs adviser Ronald Llamas, has been caught on camera purportedly in the process of patronizing pirated DVDs.  The President shrugged off the incident because DVDs are not top priority for him.  Maybe it is time for the government to define what exactly are its priorities.

12 Commandments

It may be time for the MTRCB to start tagging classifications onto newscasts and coverage of the impeachment trial.  Our kids are beginning to imbibe the wrong values.  Let's call them the 12 Commandments of Governance:

  1. Do not do your homework.  You may be able to bluff your way through.
  2. When caught unprepared, look repentant and say, “We submit, Your Honor.”
  3. In any case, there will always be generous souls like Sen. Frank Drilon and Sen. Ralph Recto who will be there for you to help you get a passing grade.
  4. Learn how to manipulate the news coverage by ostensibly explaining complex points of law to reporters.
  5. Campaign early by going on information dissemination campaigns paid by taxpayers in your constituencies.
  6. Ignore minor infractions committed by your friends as low priority.
  7. Disclosure of SALNs is only for those who are accused of violating the Constitution.
  8. Study law.  It is good to be prepared to defend yourself when caught red-handed.
  9. Supplement your communication degree by reading Goebbels's masterpiece, The Principles of Propaganda.
  10. Skip your homework and watch television.  You will learn better about the practical things that count more in life.
  11. Do not follow what your leaders say but what they do.
  12. Make a career in government a first priority, DVDs last.

Gout is not peanuts

By Winston A. Marbella

Winston Spencer Churchill, a chronic gout sufferer, is reported to have said that there was no disease in this world that several shots of brandy could not cure.  So he always made it a point to have several shots of brandy after dinner.

His biographers did not specify the amount, but since Churchill enjoyed brandy so much, the amount he took must have been, well, enough to put him to sleep.  This is probably why he thought alcohol cured his gout.

Now doctors say alcohol is bad for gout, but peanuts and other legumes may not be that bad after all for gout sufferers.  Just proves how time can change things around.

Hooray for peanuts

The Philippine Rheumatology Association (PRA) has reported that consumption of peanuts and beans has nothing to do with high level of uric acid that could eventually lead to gout or swelling of joints, writes Mayen Jaymalin in the Philippine Star.

Dr. Juan Lichauco, PRA board member, said recent studies showed that contrary to widespread belief, legumes such as peanuts and beans contain only small amounts of purene, an organic compound that becomes uric acid after being processed by the body.

“Before we used to be strict on such type of foods, but based on recent studies, we found out that we don’t have to restrict that much,” Lichauco said.

“We realized that vegetable proteins have been shown not to contribute to high uric acid.” 

Gout is a type of arthritis resulting from build-up of too much uric acid in the body.

“Uric acid usually remains in the blood until it passes into the urine through the kidney. In people with gout, uric acid deposits in the joints and other tissues in the form of urate crystals,” Lichauco said.

Medical experts say gout, which triggers severe pain and swelling in one or more joints, can be inherited or may also occur as a complication of other diseases.

Males more prone

Males are more commonly affected with gout. People with gout experience the first attack between the age of 30 and 50.

Lichauco said there were drugs available to lower uric acid levels.   But he also advises patients to shed some pounds if necessary and to avoid foods that tend to raise uric acid level.

Gout out-patients should avoid internal organ meats like liver and kidney as well as bagoong (shrimp paste), dilis (anchovies), sardines, shellfish and, most especially, alcoholic beverages.

“People with gout can eat almost anything as long as it is in moderation. However, there are certain foods that have been identified to precipitate gout attacks.  It is best to avoid them.” 

Lichauco said people with gout might also have a problem in their kidneys, so it is best to see their doctors. 

There is no evidence to show Churchill was correct in his preferred medication for gout, but he certainly had a lot of fun thinking several gulps of brandy worked.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Welcome back, Senator Santiago's beautiful mind

By Winston A. Marbella

Rejecting the advice of her hypertension doctor to skip the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona to keep her high blood pressure in check, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago made her first appearance at the trial and made her beautiful legal mind immediately apparent.

With a few quick questions, Santiago asserted that the Chief Justice was entitled to his constitutional right to a speedy trial.  She immediately requested the prosecution and defense panels to inform the court of the witnesses and documentary they planned to present to shorten the proceedings.

Chief House Prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas began to shake his head and was quickly reprimanded.  Tupas asked for a few days to submit.  Chief defense counsel Serafin Cuevas, a retired Supreme Court justice, rattled off a list of witnesses and documentary evidence, eliciting an approving smile from Santiago.

Who causes delay?

The incident belied the contention of the prosecution that the defense was delaying the trial.  On the contrary, it seemed to indicate that it was the prosecution that was delaying the trial with its lack of preparedness.

With her clarificatory questions, Santiago also provoked the court to address the amount of evidence needed to return a verdict of guilty or not guilty.  Santiago asked for the counsels' position.

Tupas said the prosecution believed the amount of evidence needed was substantial evidence as needed in administrative cases.  Cuevas replied that proof beyond reasonable was needed as in criminal cases because the penalty to be imposed in impeachment cases was removal from office and perpetual prohibition from holding another public office.

Santiago submitted the determination of the standard of proof to an executive session of the court.

'Akin' to criminal case

In a previous ruling, Enrile said he considered the needed standard of proof “akin” to a criminal case because the crimes needed to impeach are criminal in nature, like treason, bribery and graft and corruption.

Santiago's question will now force the court to address the standard of proof they will use.

Francis Lim, a lawyer in a big law firm, says:  “Under the Constitution, the 'Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.' Notably, however, the Constitution and the Senate Rules on Impeachment Trials are both silent on the standard of proof when the Senate acts as the impeachment court. Neither do we have any jurisprudence on the matter.”

“The big question then is what standard of proof should the senator-judges use in deciding the Corona impeachment case?” Lim asks.

Different standards of proof

“The Senate impeachment rules provide that the rules of court, which includes the rules on evidence, shall apply suppletorily to the impeachment proceedings,” Lim says.

“The four main standards of proof under the rules of court are: (1) substantial evidence; (2) preponderance of evidence; (3) clear and convincing evidence; and (4) proof beyond reasonable doubt.

“Substantial evidence refers to such amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion. In common parlance, it is the kind of evidence that a reasonable man can say 'puwede na' (good enough)  to justify a conclusion. This is used in cases filed before administrative and quasi-judicial bodies.

Preponderance of evidence

“In civil cases, the standard of preponderance of evidence is synonymous with the phrase 'greater weight of the evidence' or 'greater weight of the credible evidence.'  To put it simply, the admitted evidence is weighed on the scales of justice, and judgment is rendered in favor of the side at which the scales tilt to.

“Clear and convincing evidence is a more stringent standard that requires the allegation to be proven to the firm belief or satisfaction of the trier of fact. This standard requires that the evidence must be overwhelming enough to clearly indicate the winning party. To follow the same illustration on the scales of justice, the tilt must weigh heavily in favor of a party to the case.

“Proof beyond reasonable doubt is the highest standard, which is applied in criminal cases. It requires moral certainty, or such degree of proof that produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. Although absolute uncertainty is not required, the evidence must undoubtedly show to an unprejudiced mind that the accused is guilty of the acts complained of.  Again, using the scales of justice as an example, the scale must definitely and undoubtedly tilt in favor of the prosecution evidence,” Lim said.

Quantum of evidence

Lim added: “The Constitution uses the words 'conviction' and 'convicted.' Moreover, the Senate impeachment rules employ the phrases 'plea of not guilty' and 'plea of guilty.”' This seems to suggest that the standard of proof required in impeachment proceedings is proof beyond reasonable doubt.

“Some also argue that since an impeachment proceeding partakes of the nature of a criminal proceeding, proof beyond reasonable doubt is the appropriate standard of proof. Others say that the use of proof beyond reasonable doubt is necessary to maintain the balance of power under the principle of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

“On the other hand, some quarters point out that, unlike a criminal case where a person is deprived of life, liberty or property, a judgment in impeachment proceeding is limited to 'removal from office and disqualification to hold any office....

“Still others argue that the criminal standard of proof fails to recognize that the purpose of an impeachment proceeding is to protect public interest by getting rid of public officers unfit to remain in their constitutional positions. Consequently, public interest should weigh more heavily than the interest of the individual defendant....

Middle ground

“Some argue that since an impeachment case is neither a civil nor a criminal proceeding, the standard of proof should be a middle ground between the usual civil standard (preponderance of evidence) and the criminal standard (proof beyond reasonable doubt). The appropriate standard, according to this school of thought, is clear and convincing evidence, as used in more important and specific civil cases.

“This standard has been used in the United States. According to its proponents, this intermediate standard accomplishes the purpose of an impeachment proceeding, while recognizing the need to protect the independence of a coequal branch of government by avoiding unjustified removals from office,” Lim concluded.