Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Ten Commandments in Answering Bar Exam Questions (By Atty. R.A. Sarmiento)

The Ten Commandments
in Answering Bar Exam Questions
by Atty. Ralph A. Sarmiento (10th placer, 1997 Bar Exams)

Thou shall not abandon your common sense.
Thou shall leave your personal biases at home.
Thou shall answer only what is being asked.
Thou shall not invent facts.
Thou shall write legibly and clearly.
Thou shall not write unduly long answers.
Thou shall not brag about your legal knowledge.
Thou shall not criticize the problem.
Thou shall always state the legal basis of your answer.
Thou shall not make an unjustified conclusion.


The most dangerous places on earth are not the training grounds of terrorists in hidden jungles, not the maximum-security prisons, not the darkest corners of cities which harbor all sorts of shady people. The most dangerous places are ‘Law Schools’ –the glorified structures where knowledge and power are handed out like weapons that can either build or destroy. Those who know the laws can undoubtedly find ways around them. Throughout our young history, these structures’ products, the "lawyers", the ultimate backstage pass..the "new priesthood", as highlighted in the Devil's Advocate movie (1997), are given the critical responsibility to help their nation and its people. In fact, our Lawyer’s swore to the following responsibilities, among others:

“To support its Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; to do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; To delay no man for money or malice, and to conduct himself/herself as a lawyer according to the best of his/her knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well as to the court as to the clients; and to impose upon their selves this  voluntary obligation without any mental reservation nor purpose of evasion…”

Lately, a petition surfaced in relation to the controversy pointing to the lawyer-lawmaker Rep Aliping (Side Photo by Grace Bandoy). Such can be sensed as among the big "D" (Defenses) of any lawyer or politician who is caught red-handed -"Diversion" if not suppression (the others are Delay, and Deny). I don’t really gain anything from criticizing the Congressman (at least in a political sense) since I am based in La Trinidad. But as a believer of Legal Ethics and the nobleness of the Legal profession, I would like to point out some things to perhaps argue against the content of their petition:

    1. They forgot to mention that Cong. Aliping is not a Law-abiding Citizen as he does not follow existing Environmental Laws and Land Laws nor does he know about the principle of permits and compliance certificates. (Even if he is actually a lawyer).

2. Cong. Aliping is not a Nature – Lover even if these petition signatories are. Those who have signed this must go to the site to see the destruction for themselves. And remember Busol watershed? And what "uncalled for", do you expect the people to sit silently while their watersheds are being ravaged by some powerful people?

     3. The one who sowed confusion to Baguio/Benguet People is the congressman himself. He first said that the property is owned by his brother, and when the letters for permits surfaced containing his name, he admitted that it is his (pala). Ano ba talaga kuya? He was so confused to even suggest that the project is for an eco-tourism park (so he must destroy the ecology) – the irony. If there is one person who does not know what he is talking about... it is him.

4. They are correct when they said that we are a nation of laws, and not of lawbreakers. Perhaps, they should remind congressman about the golden rule in civil law: "Every person must, in the exercise of his rights, and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty, and good faith." (He lied about the property, he lied to Tuba officials when he promised that he won't touch anything in the mountain, and worse, he proceeded 'in bad faith' with the excavations even without permits, or even knowing that it is a protected 'reservation')
    5. The petition assumes that there is no sufficient information about the case but refused to recognize that it is the Congressman himself who is not explaining things. Is he not a public servant who owes us explanation about such incident?

      6.   I am not really sure what sector this petition is talking about.                                           

7. The right to expression is likewise a personal liberty afforded to us by the Constitution. Further, public issues especially by public figures merit public attention.

8. Support “our Government”? Huh? Cong. Aliping is NOT 'our government'. We support the  cases filed by DENR and BWD (and surprise, they are also government agencies).

I don’t know. Even the Calibri text and spacings are not convincing. It seems that they have a different meaning for sobriety.  Plus, the Bible quote is an implied acceptance that indeed, the Congressman has done something bad. Why am I even wasting my time analyzing this joke when even an elementary school student can sense its folly. My take is, the Congressman got himself into a quicksand, and the more his 'damage control team' moves, the more people will prove that they are not stupid.

Although I wrote about Lawyers who can abandon laws or circumvent the same for their personal gain. I'm glad that two lawyers I look up to; Atty. Sanidad, and Atty. Molintas, who were offered to sign the Petition supporting Aliping, refused to do so. Many thanks! You have proven that the said brotherhood of lawyers does not excuse nor exempt a member who has blatantly disregarded laws and conscience.

To be fair to the Aliping family, since I found many of their family members nice people, I wrote this, not to antagonize the family but the “act” itself and of course, its actor. As someone who hopes to be a leader someday, I am writing this to remind myself that greed and corruption only brings misery. That, I have to firmly hold to my ideals and not to turn into the monsters that I abhor.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cordillera Day Tree Planting at Mt. Cabuyao

We were expecting a typhoon (and I'm supposed to stand-by for disaster-rescue as part of the LGU, if ever) but still,  I reminded Dan, Aby and some friends early in the morning about what we will be doing this Cordillera Day- We will be planting trees!  

From La Trinidad, we made it to the Green Valley Junction and rode a Sto. Tomas-bound Jeepney  up to the turning point, had some coffee at a nearby store, and went walking up to the police station. After which, we rented a taxi to Kabuyao Elementary School. We're not yet late (to our surprise) so we decided to look around. This majestic view near their bathroom is truly unexpected:
There were many participants which include the organizers (Cordillera Conservation Trust), the PNP-Cordillera, the CENRO staff, a group of Mountain-trekkers, a Muslim Organization, Media People, CS/NGOs, and concerned citizens like us :) 
 After some few reminders from the organizer's Director, Mr. JP Alipio, we proceeded to the destroyed area in an attempt to restore/reforest it. ( Picture below are the famous electric fans of Sto. Tomas which are responsible for Baguio City's cool climate :) hehe )
When we got there, everyone realized that the damage is not really exaggerated. Its true; there were kilometers and kilometers of excavations where trees (more than thousands of trees, not just 761) were felled, and which caused boulders of rock to rage on the streams below. One does not need to be an environmentalist to be alarmed and be enraged. We are now witnesses to the atrocities of a Lawyer-Lawmaker-Lawbreaker who's greed must have eaten his soul.

We planted trees in the middle of the road in hopes of reforesting it.We realized that this would give us more stake or ownership of the forest or the reservation, and ultimately teach us to protect it. 
(Pic Below shows a gentleman from Sudan who is helping 'us' save 
the forest which gives us water)
(Hoping for resurrection!)
Dan (photograper), Aby, and I (all struggling bloggers except for Dan), decided to explore the reservation after the activity. We decided to go down and follow the river!

We got lost! (but that's another story). What's important is that we emerged from a 6 hour walk/climb/trek and found the main road. This day was well spent! (Baguio view from Mt. Cabuyao)
"Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises." - Pedro Calderon de la Barca

(All pictures used courtesy of blogger/writer, Dan Feliciano..:)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Year 2014

Year 2014

I’m a 2-1-4 guy (Feb.14 or 2/14). When I bet on the lottery, I always bet on these numbers. 214 or “Am I real?” (2-am, 1-I, 4-real) is one of my favorite songs. Most ID nos. that were issued to me revolved around or contained these numbers. That is why it is no surprise that I view 2014 as “my” year.

Last year, I imagined everything in my favor for the upcoming year; finish Law and take the 2014 Bar examinations, complete my masters, and take my Phd, take a good appointive position, invest on something, and perhaps, live the life I earned. The year 2014, without a question ‘should’ be ‘my’ year.

Fate, or some divine hands must have had a different opinion. To my shock, I found out that I will be a father to a sweet little boy. Although I won’t ever regret such happening, the incident complicated a lot of things –relationships, work, connections…name it. Even though I won some small battles, a string of unforeseen events made me think that I will, imminently, lose the war; a judge failed me two times in a subject which is likened to a P.E. subject of the undergrad, my masters adviser had a research at Tacloban and no adviser was available, I turned down an appointive position because I expected to take the 2014 Bar, I lost time, money, and even property in the most inconceivable and most funny way possible to my deep regret and distress. It seems that the coming 2014, or its anticipation, is a curse to me.

Maybe it’s that clutter that made me stop for awhile in my teaching job, and to plea for a ‘roving’ schedule in my community service position. Although I have remedied most of my troubles, the 2014 timeline I spoke of and expected was delayed. For weeks I stayed at home and have gotten myself consistently drunk to forget the stress and depression of it all. I was a mess. A failure.

Then one morning, Vash, my little boy, crawled to me and looked at me with pleading eyes. In that moment, I understood what he meant; In all the years I had, I maintained the moonlight bandit that I am, the selfish prick who disregarded emotions after emotions, and the egoistic gunslinger who’d put his fun first before obvious priorities. I realized that 2014 is not really for me, but for others…most especially my boy.

Maybe that is the plan, the purpose of this surprising chaos: so I can spend my 2014 days baby-sitting. A year to be spent playing with him, feeding him, changing his diapers, and rushing to bath him on lazy mornings. Maybe all those things happened because this year is supposed to be a time for me to watch him do his own battles - his first crawl, first words, first steps...

Maybe I really owe this year to him, because maybe, it is  ‘his’ year and not mine.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Will the “real” environmentalists please stand up?

I will be the first to admit that I am not a genuine environmentalist.

I feel guilty every time I use plastic bags, ride in cars, eat in fast food chains, use my cellphone –name it, there is no denying that I am one of the earth’s killers, most of us are. Obviously, our very own existence has always been a threat against our planet. I did explain this indisputable fact in my Wasted World essay seven years ago. My admission is not a way to escape responsibility, but simply a way to accept the truth.

We cannot deny it. Even a popular environmentalist in our place ironically used pine wood in most parts of his home. Self-proclaimed environmental activists travel with their own cars, even uses plastic tarpaulins in their rallies. For some observers, they are seen as a bunch of hypocrites – a group of media whores who jump at chances for camera exposure, people who organize or attend tree planting activities for mere photo-ops, or attend environmental rallies for the same…Or maybe, those observers are just some bitter people who are disturbed by the guilt of not doing anything.

The thought of “not doing anything because we are destroying the environment in the first place ” is akin to accepting hopelessness in our society. It is still great to know that we are doing something to mitigate the effects of our actions, if not to substantially eradicate our tendency to destroy the natural fabric that underpins life itself. Hence I would like to give credit to those who have championed these environmental causes, those who have made it a cause to save the world, those who have risked their name to go against anyone who would dare to destroy mother nature. You all have my respect.

That is why when the news about Sto. Tomas destruction broke out, I was confident that those said ‘environmentalists’ like those who organized/joined the movement against SM a couple of years ago,  will raise hell against the alleged perpetrator of the said environmental crime, just like how they did against SM. The case is just so unbelievable for cold silence.

To my surprise, there is a stark contrast between how they reacted against SM and to their reactions against the Congressman. Some newspapers are also surprisingly silent about this issue. As if the incident is not about a Lawmaker-Lawyer- Lawbreaker who promised that his term is “para sa Kalikasan at Kapaligiran”. The Baguio City People page provided this painful and truthful illustration of how this issue is being treated:

“Adi sika ti apan ag-rally jay balay da nu kayat mu!” said an ‘environmentalist’ friend who admonished me years ago for not attending more activities against SM. “Ket sika ngay?” I retorted sheepishly.

That is not the point. Although I was there at the backseat, I was there to have my comparison on how it was with SM and how it was today with the Sto. Tomas Issue:

SM Issue (against a Corporation)
Sto. Tomas Issue (against a Politician)
Quotable Quotes
“Give Trees a Chance”

“Cut your Greed not the Trees”
“ Congressman, we are giving you the chance to explain…even if you did not give the trees a chance”

“Trees were cut because of Greed”
Reason for not Talking
“Sub Judice” (case is pending)
“Sub Judice”
Notable Media Scenes:
Consistent rallies/ concerts/ activities even up to dawn.

Crying/Screaming/Dancing people on Protests.

Altercation with SM Guards by movements’ ‘leaders’.

A singer tying himself to a tree to protest.



"Will the “real” environmentalists please stand up?" People might ask.

I can only imagine the reason for their (or our) deafening silence. If some critics felt that those who went against SM are not environmentalists, then will the said critics be? Who are the 'real' environmentalists, or leaders anyway? Perhaps, I am also writing this to criticize myself. Why can't I do the rallies? Why can't I also scream? Why do I expect them like superheroes who will do everything for the residents?  It would be quite unfair to them. Or perhaps, it is  wrong to kick someone when he is already down. Especially because authorities have already filed a case against him.

But maybe he deserved to be kicked down. It was one Grace Bandoy, a PRs nightmare known for her bold and sometimes, extreme political and social commentaries, who first exposed the massive cutting of trees and destruction/excavation at Sto. Tomas. Apparently, there is truth in the saying that “even broken clocks are right two times a day”. Were it not for her, I wouldn’t have known about this issue. Only a couple of bloggers talked about this issue uncompromisingly, and I give my respect to The Cordillera Sun (TCS) who is the most relentless in doing so.

“Ket sika ngay? Inya aramidem garud ta ada en met jay Court?” my environmentalist-friend asked again. “Agsuratak garud blog ken maki-join ak forum to give the congressman a chance to speak and incriminate himself in the process…tapnu haan matay jay issue ken maabak nu next…” I told him jokingly.

“Aye pay di ay Kailyan…” he sighed.

“This is not an ethnic issue…it’s a simple issue of a public-official’s betrayal of the people..” I replied. This may be bigger than the people involved...bigger than the observers, movement leaders, perpetrators. As an advocate of better governance, I once withdrew my support to another lawyer who betrayed my trust (but that is another story).

“Inayan sa…” he breathed. “Ket ibagam jay kakadwa tayo garud nga uray i-share da man lang dagijay write-ups about the issue..”

“Narigat met kanu…” I said.

In a way, I understand them. We live in a very complicated world.

I've met the Congressman years ago when he was still a councilor(although I bet he would not remember me), and saw an ideal to imitate – a lawyer, lawmaker, who has everything going good for him. Perhaps this issue will warn all those idealists not to ‘turn into the monsters that they once abhorred’. That greed only brings tragedy, and power corrupts absolutely. I wish the Aliping family the strength to face this, and I’m sure they know that neither silence nor stone-blocking will not end this issue. If I am in the Congressman’s shoes, I will admit what I’ve done, resign from office, face the people and ask for their forgiveness, hug my family with a free conscience, and spend my remaining life being a “genuine environmentalist”.

Life is too short for the corrupting pleasures of more money and more power.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Evil "Men of God"

A Pastor assigned in a Pentecostal church in Benguet was arrested a couple of months ago for rape, sexual assault, and acts of lasciviousness. The victim was a 19-year-old church worker and worse, his counselee. The sexual exploits were committed between September 2012 to August 2013 and within the pastoral house even when church activities are going on. These horrible and revolting actions of a “servant of God” prompted a petition by pastors and church workers in the Pentecostal Church of Baguio-Benguet to condemn the said acts.

News about “Men of God” not practicing what they preach is not new. Just recently also, a pastor was nabbed in Pico, La Trinidad town on April 2014 after selling “shabu,” to an agent. Years ago a church leader was involved with a Pyramiding Scam which siphoned church funds to unknown pockets. Or let us not forget the news about some priests in some remote places in the Cordillera who have sexual relations with their church members or parishioners. Or let us recall the ‘Vatican Scandal’ which involved Bishops who molested/raped young children in their care.

Various cases in the Philippines (and even in the whole world) showed many of these kinds of people; among the more popular is the case of People vs. Deopita (2010).

More than a decade ago, Mr. Deopita not only robbed but also raped a poor young woman. When he was arrested and was brought to trial, he alleged that he is “a person of good moral character” holding as he does the position of “Ministerial Servant” in the congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses, and that he is a godly man, righteous person, and a good Christian who preaches the word of God.

Unconvinced because of the overwhelming evidence pointing to Deopita, the court declared that his “sterling qualities” he mentioned is no guarantee against any sexual perversion and plunderous proclivity. In closing, the court went on to further explain that:

“Indeed, religiosity is not always an emblem of good conduct, and it is not the unreligious alone who succumbs to the impulse to rob and rape…”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Marivic Genosa Case

People of the Philippines vs. Marivic Genosa

On November 18, 1995,  SPO3 Leo Acodesin, then assigned at the police station at Isabel, Leyte, received a report regarding the foul smell at the Genosas’ rented house.  Together with other police personnel, they  proceeded to the house and went inside the bedroom where they found the dead body of Ben lying on his side wrapped with a bedsheet.  There was blood at the nape of Ben who only had his briefs on.  The bedroom was not in disarray.