Sunday, 27 May 2012

Why the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines must be impeached “In response to a question from Senator Drilon, Corona reiterated that he did not report his dollar deposits in his SALN because he believes these are covered by the confidentiality clause in the Foreign Currency Deposits Act.” [GMA News, May 25]. This is what the Foreign Currency Deposits Act (FCDA) says about confidentiality: Section 8. Secrecy of foreign currency deposits. – All foreign currency deposits authorized under this Act, as amended by PD No. 1035, as well as foreign currency deposits authorized under PD No. 1034, are hereby declared as and considered of an absolutely confidential nature and, except upon the written permission of the depositor, in no instance shall foreign currency deposits be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office whether judicial or administrative or legislative, or any other entity whether public or private; Provided, however, That said foreign currency deposits shall be exempt from attachment, garnishment, or any other order or process of any court, legislative body, government agency or any administrative body whatsoever. (As amended by PD No. 1035, and further amended by PD No. 1246, prom. Nov. 21, 1977.) [http://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra1974/ra_6426_1974.html] The Chief Justice has declared that foreign currency accounts are confidential and therefore do not need to be reported in SALN. As pointed out by Senator Santiago, “It’s only natural that a person will choose an interpretation most favorable to him.” [T.J.Burgonio in Philippine Daily Inquirer May 27, 2012] However, contrary to Santiago’s claims an “interpretation” has no basis in any contradiction between the FCDA and legislation on SALN. According to the Constitution, all assets must be declared in SALN. The law on confidentiality of foreign currency accounts does not say that the account-holder must not, should not or cannot declare those assets. In the light of the words and the spirits of the two laws, what Corona has delivered is not an interpretation of any ambiguity, but an enormously gross twisting of the meaning of the FCDA. The implication of this manipulation is: 1. Renato Corona did nothing wrong in not declaring his dollar accounts; 2. Any public official, who has something to hide, whether 100 pesos or a billion pesos may easily and legally hide it in a foreign currency account. If we are to trust the Chief Justice, officials may therefore with impunity circumvent the legal obligation to disclose his or her assets. Mr Corona has publicly declared that he himself is no fool, so anyone who does not follow his example would probably in Mr Corona’s opinion be considered foolish. If this “interpretation” had come from a junior congressman, one could perhaps allow him the benefit of doubt, considering that he might not understand what confidentiality means. But when a judge of the Supreme Court, to serve his own interest, issues a license to corruption in public, then he must be removed from his office, by legal means. If Renato Corona is impeached by the Senate, this may be the beginning of a clean-up of the judiciary, a process that will be painful and lengthy. It will not be the beginning of the end, not even the end of the beginning, but perhaps the beginning of the beginning. If he is not impeached, then God have mercy on this country.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Musings on the dead

I was an impressed and puzzled 14 year old in 1963, when reading in the newspaper that the writer Jean Cocteau (about whom I knew nothing) had died of sorrow a few hours after hearing of the death of Edith Piaf (whom I had often heard on radio and liked for her passionate cutting-blade voice). Over the last days of last year, I came to remember those two, as I read about the death of Cesaria Evora, who was followed after one day by Vaclav Havel. In this case, there is no connection, at least I don’t know of any intersection in their lives. But they had a lot in common with Piaf and Cocteau apart from being respectively singer and playwright: All four were immensely successful, and all four did what was right.

Cocteau would be the outsider in this quartet. He was privileged from birth to grave and seemed to manage everything in life with artistry, lightness and - honesty. Havel was also born in a wealthy family, but it was bad time and place for such a background. He could have used his creativity and intelligence in the service of the communist regime of Czechoslovakia, or have become an accomplished √©migr√©, but he chose to stay home and fight the imprisonment of his country and his people. That, remember, was at a time, when it seemed unlikely that the communist dictatorship would come to an end in Havel’s lifetime. I confess that I have not read or seen any of Havel’s plays, and I am not sure, whether I will. His autobiography I have read; “To the Castle” gives a portrait of a humble, serious and humorous man in the middle of a revolution. If at times he seems too infatuated with the United States, one can also understand why, given his perspective. Cesaria Evora had a lot in common with Edith Piaf, coming from poverty, preferring themes of suffering, and receiving late and deserved acclaim. My favourite from her repertoire is Sodade. That is the Capeverdian (Criollo) version of the Portuguese Saudade, which means Longing – the kind that is laced with salt water and wine (or longing for those elements) and never ends. It is the song of a slave. Singing it, Evora lent her voice to all those who have lost something - irrevocably.

Let us raise a glass and perhaps take a puff from some lethal smoke in admiration and gratitude to this nicotinized liberating foursome!

Of course, the next big shot to leave us in 2011 was Kim Jong-Il, the most perfect antithesis to Havel and the other three above-mentioned one could imagine. I have been privileged to be able to download his son, the Supreme Commander. Inspired by Mr Knud Hansen, the bragging and travelling Danish cheese business man, who in the 1960s always carried with him a portrait of Denmark’s social democrat prime minister to be able to curb any impending saudade for his homeland, I now regularly contemplate Kim Jong-un, and any blues dissipates, as I congratulate myself for not living in DPRK.