Understanding that the integrity of Philippine elections
cannot be left to the government alone, Attorney
Carlos Medina Jr., Ateneo Human Rights Center executive
director, speaks about the Legal
Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE). LENTE
is a non-partisan election watch group he helped
form in 2007 to monitor the then national elections.
Composed of lawyers, law students and paralegals,
Atty. Medina discusses how LENTE has evolved and
expanded its efforts in preparation for the May
He explains that aside from monitoring the proceedings,
LENTE will also work to ensure accountability
during the electoral process. It is seeking accreditation
with the Commission on Elections as a citizen’s
arm so that it can partner with it not only in
the filing of electoral fraud cases but also in
educating the public on protecting its right to
Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila de
Lima analyses the country’s human rights situation.
She discusses this as a reminder that the platforms
of candidates for national elections must center
on what does not change: freedom. Freedom is about
the protection of human rights. While there is no
country that protects all human rights, there are
some that are closer than others. Unfortunately,
the Philippines is not one of those nations. She
therefore proposes two areas where a solution from
the next administration is needed.
The first is the problem of the slow process
of justice. There are not enough prosecutions.
Powerful individuals are rarely indicted. She
explains that the core of enforcing human rights
is prosecutions that lead to convictions. Without
this, all efforts to protect human rights will
The second area that the next set of elected
officials should also look into is putting an
end to extrajudicial and vigilante-style killings.
There is no justice in murder. She stresses that
the police and the military should be the first
to come to the defense of human rights.
The second part of our program on the appointment
of the next chief justice has Philippine Daily
Inquirer columnist, Manuel Quezon III, discuss
the political aspects behind this issue. He first
talks about the legal ping pong that happened between
President Garcia and President Macapagal over Garcia’s
last minute appointments. He also explains the immediate
ramifications that resulted because of this.
He then frames the debate over the appointment
of Justice Puno’s successor against the
backdrop of President Arroyo’s last State
of the Nation Address. She had indicated that
she would exercise her powers until the very last
minute of her term. Quezon analyses the effect
her appointment of the next chief justice could
have on public perception and the consequences
on the reputation of the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Reynato Puno reaches mandatory retirement
on 17 May 2010. Two conflicting concerns arise because
of this: a vacancy in a critical position in the
Supreme Court vs. the constitutional ban on midnight
appointments. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., a member
of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, explores
these constitutional issues. On one hand, the constitution
bans midnight appointments. Thus, the president
cannot make any appointments after March 10. The
only exception would be temporary appointments to
the executive department in cases where this is
However, the constitution also states that a new
chief justice has to be appointed within 90 days.
Since the new president will only be inaugurated
on June 30, there seems to be some contradiction.
Fr. Bernas, S.J., explains that when two provisions
seem at variance with each other, the first thing
to do is to look for ways to make them both work.
That is feasible in this case. After inauguration,
the new president would still have 45 days to appoint
a new chief justice.
He also explains that the Supreme Court has procedures
in case of the absence of a chief justice for a
short period of time. Should this happen, the next
most senior justice takes over the administrative
duties of the chief justice. Substantive concerns
are the responsibility of all the justices. A vacancy
can therefore be managed satisfactorily.
Ferdinand Rafanan, director of the law department
of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), discusses
how COMELEC is preparing to conduct the country’s
first nationwide fully automated elections. He explains
the new voting process and the Precinct Count Optical
Scan (PCOS) machines. Atty. Rafanan also talks about
the different contingency measures in place should
the automated systems malfunction.
Bantay Balota lawyer, Ronald
Solis, questions the capability of the Commission
on Elections (COMELEC) to execute a nationwide
automated election. He points out several administrative
and technical issues that COMELEC should tackle.
Attorney Solis focuses on eight critical areas:
source code review, printing of ballots, education
and training, testing and sealing of machines,
transmission concerns, access to the server, manual
audit and a continuity plan. He discusses each
point extensively, examines possible scenarios
and offers recommendations to address deficiencies.
Critics of liberalism would like to blame the onset
of the global financial crisis on it. However, Dr.
Felipe Medalla, Foundation for Economic Freedom
chairman, argues otherwise. He points to the weakening
of the rule of law in the United States as one of
the main factors for the crisis. He talks about
how the corruption in its financial system and regulatory
failures led to the meltdown.
Dr. Medalla also discusses how the financial crisis
is a case of an oversimplified belief in the inherent
stability of markets. The U.S. government paid too
little attention to the valid case for basic regulation.
The crisis is an important indicator of the need
for an efficient rule of law to keep markets free
and competitive. However, the danger is that governments
might overcorrect now and smother markets in badly
In the Philippines, the problems of property rights
are complex. Dr.
Arturo Corpuz, vice president for Urban and
Regional Planning of Ayala Land, draws from personal
experience and speaks about land acquisition problems.
He discusses how property rights are meaningful
only to the extent that you can utilize the land
and extract value from it. Unfortunately difficulties
with ownership, documentation and process, zoning
and access hamper the realization of property’s
This does serious damage to economic development.
Land that could be used commercially but is tied
up in red tape and litigation is dead capital. The
amount of dead capital in the country is staggeringly
high. This is one of the causes of poor economic
performance, but most people are not aware of it.
Dr. Corpuz also touches on possible solutions, but
states that these are unlikely without adequate
infrastructure and institutional reforms.
Emmanuel de Dios, dean of the University of
the Philippines School of Economics, examines the
development of the idea of property rights in western
philosophy. He explains that the rationale for property
rights can be summed up into two opposing thoughts:
the natural rights view and the welfare or utilitarian
view. The natural rights notion is that property
rights are absolute. They are intrinsically linked
to the individual’s aim for liberty, well-being
and progress, and they cannot be tampered with.
The utilitarian notion, on the other hand, is that
they are relative and can be modified to aim at
social improvement. He explains that this welfare
view is what fuelled Karl Marx’s position.
Marx believed that it is desirable to actually re-arrange
property rights, tinker with the market, and realize
a net social gain by crafting better arrangements
through revolutionary politics. However, history
has proven Marx wrong. The economic collapse of
Socialism showed that stable property rights and
a functioning market work far, far better than political
command-and-control systems that only direct economies
into inefficiency, waste and stagnation.
Drawing from John Nye’s talk on elites and
reform, Noel Maurer, associate professor of Harvard
Business School, talks about a time in our history
when dominant interests found it beneficial to allow
reforms in the country.
In the early 20th century, American conservative
elites wanted to keep the Philippines after defeating
Spain but ran into strong popular opposition from
the Democrats. Maurer explains how the elites changed
the public’s opinion by convincing them that
American rule would be beneficial to Filipinos.
He talks about the different reforms that William
Taft and other American policy makers passed in
relation to property rights. It was believed that
this would radically improve the material conditions
of Filipinos. Unfortunately this largely failed.
Maurer discusses the reasons for this failure and
concludes that there is no magic bullet. It is not
as simple as fixing one thing. There were other
problems that might have been wrong with the Philippine
economy that might have needed to be addressed concurrently.
Thus simply giving formal property rights did not
resolve the bigger issues
Professor John Nye of George Mason University discusses
the importance of New Institutional Economics for
developing countries. He talks about how reforms
are best understood from the default position of
poverty. In fact it is the prosperity of some nations
that is a rare and recent event. The real issue
is how countries can rise out of destitution, and
why it is particularly difficult to do so.
Nye explains that elites distrust reform because
they are not sure they will remain unscathed. The
key then, is to broker a compromise between the
leading factions that will open up the economy in
the long run, but will preserve the existing order
in the short term. Real world compromise requires
not only getting the elites to agree to transformation,
but also to create vested interest in further reforms.
Joe Hansen, U.S. Democratic Party political consultant,
shares anecdotes form the Barack Obama 2008 presidential
campaign. He attributes its success to its “standing
the traditional campaign structure on its head.”
He talks about how it was run on the basis of respect,
inclusion and empowerment. Hansen mentions how there
were no preconditions; anybody who wanted to work
in the campaign was welcomed. He also contrasts
Obama’s campaign style with that of Clinton’s
and McCain’s and discusses their mistakes.
Hansen also compares the role of civil society organizations
in the Philippines and in the US. He discusses their
importance in political life. He urges them to keep
working to influence politicians’ decisions
and to hold officials accountable for their promises.
After all, democracy is strengthened by these continuous