Archive for May, 2012

Guilty: Corona accepts fate after Senate’s 20-3 vote

Guilty.

But beyond that vote of 20 of the 23-member Senate ousting Chief Justice Renato Corona for dishonesty in submitting his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs), Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano pointed to a “new paradigm” in good governance.

He said that he admired Corona’s submission of an unconditional waiver during his second appearance before the Senate impeachment court on Friday allowing the government to scrutinize all his assets, not just the bank accounts.

Saying the Corona waiver “has set a new standard” among public officials, Cayetano said that President Benigno Aquino III should now instruct his Cabinet to do the same “or resign and leave government.”

“Lead by following, or get out of the way,” he said, noting that the same standard should be applied from the executive branch down to the barangay (village) level. “We should all follow this standard. The standard for one should be the standard for all.”

The 20-3 vote ousting the 63-year-old Corona came after 43 riveting days of the nationally televised impeachment trial for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

In a statement issued from his hospital bed, Corona said he was accepting his “calvary” and left unanswered the question of whether he would still go to the Supreme Court to seek relief, possibly a declaration of mistrial. His lawyers said they were still to meet with Corona later in the evening.

The senators took Corona to task for his failure to include some $2.4 million in bank deposits—on top of an allegedly commingled amount worth P80.7 million—in his SALNs from 2002 to 2010.

“The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, having tried Renato C. Corona, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, upon three articles of impeachment charged against him by the House of Representatives, with a guilty vote by 20 senators representing at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate, has found him guilty of the charge under Article 2 of the said articles of impeachment,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile announced after four hours of voting.

“Now, therefore, be it adjudged that Renato C. Corona is hereby convicted of the charge against him in Article 2. So ordered,” he continued, before banging the gavel to signal the end of the impeachment trial.

Subdued applause

The announcement was greeted by subdued clapping from the gallery, despite restrictions imposed by the Senate sergeant at arms.

Copies of the verdict were ordered transmitted to President Aquino, who campaigned for Corona’s removal, the Supreme Court en banc, Corona’s camp, the House of Representatives, and the Judicial and Bar Council, which would provide the President with a short list of candidates as the next Chief Justice.

The conviction puts an abrupt end to Corona’s stint as the country’s highest magistrate, which began in May 2010 with his disputed appointment by the outgoing President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

House prosecutors got the crucial 16th vote to remove Corona when Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. took the floor and rendered a guilty verdict. Four more senators—Vicente Sotto III, Antonio Trillanes IV, Manuel Villar, and Enrile—followed suit, bringing to 20 the number of senator-judges who found the Chief Justice guilty.

Only Senators Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. voted to acquit Corona. They all agreed that Corona’s failure to disclose assets in his SALNs was not an impeachable offense.

History is final judge

As presiding officer, Enrile cast the final vote with Corona’s fate already sealed. He provided an overview of the entire trial, its curious twists and turns and legal and “moral dilemmas.”

“I have constantly held that those who face the judgment of imperfect and fallible mortals like us have recourse to the judgment of history, and, ultimately, of God,” he said.

“And so, with full trust that the Almighty will see us through the aftermath of this chapter in our nation’s history, I vote to hold the Chief Justice, Renato C. Corona, guilty as charged under Article 2, Paragraph 2.3, and that his deliberate act of excluding substantial assets from his sworn statement of assets, liabilities and net worth constitutes a culpable violation of the Constitution.”

Majority of the senators did not buy Corona’s position that he was precluded from declaring his dollar deposits—purportedly his family savings of nearly four decades—in his SALNs because of the “absolute” confidentiality provision of the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (Republic Act No. 6426).

Enrile, in particular, rejected Corona’s reason that he did not declare some P80.7 million worth of deposits in three peso accounts because they were “commingled” with his family’s savings, including money from Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI).

“Assuming that any part of such deposits in truth belonged to third parties, the respondent could have indicated such third-party funds as corresponding liabilities in his SALN. That would have reflected his real net worth,” the Senate President said.

Grossly misplaced

Enrile described as “grossly misplaced” the Chief Justice’s “reliance on the absolute confidentiality” provided under RA 6426. He cited the constitutional requirement for all government employees to submit SALNs.

“Are we now to say that this constitutional command is limited to a public official’s assets or deposits in local currency? If so, would we not be saying, in effect, that the Constitution allows something less than a full, honest and complete disclosure?” he asked.

Enrile said Corona could have converted his dollar deposits into peso and reflected them in his SALNs. “The nondisclosure of these deposits, in both local and foreign currency, would naturally result in a corresponding distortion of the Chief Justice’s real net worth,” he said.

Because Corona was already found guilty of the second article of impeachment, the court no longer voted on the two other charges—Article 3 on the alleged flip-flopping SC decisions, and Article 7 on the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order against a justice department order preventing Arroyo from seeking medical treatment abroad.

Hypocrisy

A recurring issue throughout the trial was the matter of “hypocrisy.”

Enrile acknowledged the question as to why Corona should be punished for an error—the failure to make full disclosure of assets in SALNs—when others in government were most likely doing it as well.

“I believe it is our duty to resolve this ‘dilemma’ in favor of upholding the law and sound public policy,” said Enrile, one of the richest members of the upper chamber.

“If we were to agree with the respondent that he was correct in not disclosing the value of his foreign currency deposits because they are absolutely confidential, can we ever expect any SALN to be filed by public officials from here on to be more accurate and true than they are today?”

Macho bloc

The House prosecution’s campaign to oust Corona gathered the support of all blocs in the Senate, including most members of Senator Manuel Villar’s Nacionalista Party group. Enrile’s so-called “macho bloc” consisting of Sotto, Estrada and Honasan all voted against Corona.

Not long ago, Villar waged a bitter campaign against Mr. Aquino during the 2010 presidential election. Thus, his vote was closely watched, considering that the President was considered the main architect of Corona’s removal.

Technicalities

He spent most of his speech on Tuesday, not to explain his vote, but to recall the vilification he had likewise suffered in public. In the end, his vote turned out to be to Mr. Aquino’s liking.

“I believe that CJ Corona is a good man,” he began, “but in this issue of the (Foreign Currency Deposit) account, he was wrong. I believe that the law applies equally to all, whether rich or poor, a member of the Supreme Court or an ordinary citizen.”

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano sought to simplify the issue against Corona and the Chief Justice’s invocation of the absolute confidentiality provision.

“Why do we complicate what is so simple? Technicalities should protect the rights of the people. I don’t blame this court for sticking to technicalities because this is supposed to protect the rights of the people. But, somehow in this country, it is being used to protect people who plunder this country,” he said.

“If you did not disclose, we have to depose. If you are not fit, you cannot sit.”

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III also pounced on the issue of equal application of the law.

“The law that applies to Juan is the same law that applies to Renato,” he said in Filipino. “If you don’t want to disclose your real net worth, don’t enter government.”

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Respect for Flag Waning

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The countdown to Independence Day celebration on June 12 officially starts today, May 28, with the observance of National Flag Day-the same date when the Philippine flag was first hoisted in the ”Battle of Alapan” 114 years ago.

Aside from commemorating the very first time the Philippine Flag was unfurled in Imus, Cavite, in 1928 that signified the first victory of the Philippine Revolutionary Army under General Emilio Aguinaldo, National Flag Day also aims to promote the integrity and value of the national symbol by encouraging all Filipinos ”to display the Philippine flag in all offices, agencies and instruments of government, business establishments, schools and private homes throughout this period provided that they abide the law governing its proper use and display,” as mandated by Republic Act 8491 or The Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

Still, many people remain unfamiliar not only with the date of the celebration but what the occasion calls for: respect for the flag.

Nine out of 10 college students who were randomly asked about National Flag Day said they were ”not familiar” with the celebration. The students-ages 18 to 20-are mostly from Metro Manila schools and taking up various courses.

Carol Rogales, a Mass Communication student from Adamson University, said that she heard about it but not familiar what is the celebration all about. ”I’m not familiar about it because it’s not well-promoted,” she explained in Filipino. Erico Nico Lati of Mapua Institute of Technology, on the other hand, said that he heard about the celebration because he lives in Imus, Cavite. ”I know that there’s celebration because it’s been declared holiday but not as ‘National Flag Day’,” he said.

Lito Sanchez, a street vendor who sells small flags” in Manila, said it is the first time he heard about National Flag Day. ”Nagsisimula na talaga kami magbenta kapag malapit na mag-June kasi Independence Day pero di ko alam ‘yang Flag Day na yan,” he said.

Asked where did he get the Philippine flags, he said ”gawa lang namin yan.”

According to the official list from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, (NHCP)-Heraldry and Display Section, there are only nine ”accredited flag manufacturers” in the country-five in Manila and one in Rizal, Leyte, Iloilo and Cebu respectively. The biggest and the oldest among these accredited flag makers can be found in Rizal Avenue in Sta. Cruz, Manila-the Atlas Super Flags.

The company has been making flags since the early 1900s. Its owner, Lu Tan Gatue, considers the Philippine flag as the ”most important national symbol” and how people treat it ”reflects who were as a people but as a nation in general.” Having a flag be torn or tattered flag is something that nobody should allow to happen. ”If a flag is torn and we let it be, it reflects who we are as a people and as country-sira-sira at wasak-wasak,” she said

The 81-year-old Tan Gatue said the way Filipinos treat the flag ”is not the same as we used to.” Practically living all her life surrounded by Philippine flags, Gatue expressed her disappointment whenever she sees flags that are not treated with respect. ”Yung pagbebenta pa lang sa kalye ng di magandang klase ay di na yan pag-respeto sa bandila. Tapos makikita mo pa kung saan-saan ginagamit at inilalagay, (The mere selling of low quality flags in the streets shows disrespect. Then, some put and use it just anywhere and in any way they want to),” she said. She also mentioned the importance of bringing back out-of-school youth ”kasi karamihan sa kanila, wala ng galang sa bandila dahil di naman naituturo sa kanila di kaparehas ng mga pumapasok sa eskwela.”

The Tan Gatues have been making flags since 1910. Tan Gatue recalled that the biggest flag that they have ever made is 50ft x 100ft banner which was used in Luneta Park five years ago. The other is 22ft x 44ft flag used in Subic.

Gatue said that although they are not the only makers of flags in the country, they remain the most trusted company because of quality. ”We show how we value the Philippine Flag by making sure that it passes the test of strength and of course, only the quality materials are being used,” she said. To ensure strength, nylon is being used for each standard-sized flag which takes at least two hours to make. If taken care of properly, Gatue said that one Atlas Super Flags flag ”could last up to lifetime.”

The peak season for Philippine flags starts from May to June before the Independence Day celebration. ”But for other flags like school flags and company flags, whole year naman,” she said.

According to Gatue’s son Bong, the number of Philippine flags produced on an annual basis can range from 10,000 to 100,000 depending on the size. ”We have more than 10 sizes and we also use various types of cloth and other materials in our flags,” he said.

Mother and son hope that the flag business would be continued by their family’s future generations. ”We have instilled in them the importance of the Philippine Flag not just because it is in line with our business but its importance in keeping one nation’s people together,” she said.

According to Department of Education (Deped) Property Division, the Central Office in Pasig, City purchase flags from Atlas Super Flags while in other areas or regions, it depends on the nearest accredited flag manufacturer available.

Despite the distractions brought by modern times and technology, Education Secretary Armin Luistro stressed that ”patriotism is still alive” among the students.

”I have seen for myself on many unannounced visits to schools where I am able to attend flag ceremonies that respect for the Philippines flag and patriotism is still alive,” Luistro said when asked to comment on students’ declining familiarity with national emblem

Luistro said that a good example of this is Janela and Edzel Lelis, a student from Bicol, who went out of their way to save the flag during the onslaught of typhoon Juaning. ”I believe there are many untold stories of students who continue to display a deep sense of citizenship,” he added. s

For the 2012 National Flag Day, Luistro said DepEd Division of Cavite Superintendent Yolanda Carpina will represent DepEd in the flag raising and wreath laying ceremonies. The Alapan Elementary School Boy and Girl scouts will recite the Panunumpa and Imus National High School will render a speech choir on the historic victory of the Battle of Alapan.

Luistro said that DepEd, in partnership with the NCHP, continues to train teachers and students on the national flag and heraldic code. ”Also, part of the K to 12 curriculum reform is strengthening national pride among our students,” he said.

Things I Learned..

All I ever learned from a dog
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1. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
2. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
3. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
4. When it’s in your best interest, always practice obedience.
5. Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
6. Take naps and always stretch before rising.
7. Run, romp, and play daily.
8. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
9. Be loyal.
10. Never pretend to be something you’re not.
11. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
12. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
13. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
14. Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
15. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
16. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
17. When you are happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
18. No matter how often you are criticized, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout. Run right back and make friends

*****
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM NOAH’S ARK

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• Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
• Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone might ask you to do something REALLY big.
• Don’t listen to critics, do what has to be done.
• Build on high ground.
• For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
• Two heads are
than one.
• Speed isn’t always an advantage. The cheetahs were on board, but so were the snails.
• If you can’t fight or flee, float!
• Take care of your animals as if they were the last ones on earth.
• Don’t forget that we’re all in the same boat.
• When the doo-doo gets really deep, don’t sit there and complain shovel!!!
• Stay below deck during the storm.
• Remember that the ark was built by amateurs and the Titanic was built by professionals.
• If you have to start over, have a friend by your side.
• Remember that the woodpeckers INSIDE are often a bigger threat than the storm outside.
• Don’t miss the boat. No matter how bleak it looks, there’s always a rainbow on the other side.

Strong negative emotions can damage the immune system.

It wasn’t long ago that it was thought that emotions had no effect on the immune system. Perhaps you’ve seen the commercials that say that depression can cause physical pain. Well it’s true; your emotions have a profound effect on your well-being.

It turns out that something as simple as good feelings have healing effects on the body with everything from HIV to the flu. It’s been proven that those with a negative outlook will take longer to heal from illness, as well as physical injury. According to Martin Seligman, an expert in the field of positive psychology, there are four things that affect our health that we have control over: smoking, exercise, diet, and optimism.

According to Seligman, optimism is at least as important as the others. Though scientists don’t fully understand the biological mechanisms at work, they know that negative emotions can cause a spike in the hormone known as cortisol, which suppresses the immune system, making it harder to get better.

Should students and teachers ever be friends on Facebook?

Should students and teachers ever be friends on Facebook?

School districts in the United States are weighing that question as they seek to balance the risks of inappropriate contact with the academic benefits of social networking.

At least 40 school districts nationwide have approved social media policies. Schools in New York City and Florida have disciplined teachers for Facebook activity, and Missouri legislators recently acquiesced to teachers’ objections to a strict statewide policy.

In the New York cases, one teacher friended several female students and wrote comments including “this is sexy” under their photos, investigators said.

A substitute teacher sent a message to a student saying that her boyfriend did not “deserve a beautiful girl like you.”

Such behavior clearly oversteps boundaries, but some teachers say social media — in particular Facebook — can be a vital educational resource if used appropriately, especially because it’s a primary means of communication for today’s youngsters.

“Email is becoming a dinosaur,” said David Roush, who teaches media communications and television production at a Bronx high school. “Letters home are becoming a dinosaur. The old methods of engaging our students and our parents are starting to die.”

GUIDELINES

New York Chancellor Dennis Walcott plans to release social media guidelines this month, saying recently that teachers “don’t want to be put in a situation that could either compromise them or be misinterpreted.”

Roush does not accept students as friends on his personal Facebook page but has created a separate profile to communicate with them – something that runs afoul of Facebook rules restricting users to a single profile. He used the page to get the word out quickly about a summer internship on a cable-access show, and a student who learned about it from the Facebook post won it.

“If I would have emailed him, if I had tried calling him, he never would have got it,” Roush said.

Nkomo Morris, who teaches English and journalism at a high school in Brooklyn, said she has about 50 current and former students as Facebook friends. That could be a problem if the new rules instruct teachers not to friend students. In that event, “I’d send out a massive message, and I would unfriend them,” Morris said.

In the meantime, Morris manages her privacy settings so neither current nor former students see her personal information but do see posts about current events. She also lets students know whether something on their Facebook pages raises a red flag, such as sexual content.

“They’re not always as savvy as I am,” Morris said. “They haven’t really grasped the level of formality out in the real world.”

RESISTANCE

Efforts like New York’s have been subject to legal wrangling and resistance from teachers and their advocates.

Missouri legislators last year passed a law that barred teachers from using websites that allow “exclusive access” with students 18 years old or younger. Teachers complained that they would be banned from Facebook and Twitter.

A judge granted an injunction, declaring that the law “would have a chilling effect” on free-speech rights. The legislature then repealed the restrictions and passed a new law directing school districts to develop their own policies.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said she hopes the new policy considers First Amendment rights as well as “the enormous potential for benefiting students’ education that is represented by technology.”

Musical theater teacher Charles Willis was suspended in 2010 from Braden River High School in Florida for friending more than 100 students on Facebook and for allegedly posting sexually suggestive images and acronyms for profane words. He is now in a non-classroom job at another school, said John Bowen, a school board attorney.

Nancy Willard, author of “Cyber Savvy: Embracing Digital Safety and Civility,” believes school districts should set up their own online environments and use tools like Gaggle.net and ePals.com, which have been designed for educational purposes. There is also Edmodo, a Facebook-like network for teachers and students.

The problem with Facebook, she said, is that it was set up for socializing.

“On Facebook, flirting is encouraged,” she said. “You are encouraged to post your relationship status and your relationship interests. That’s not appropriate for a relationship between teachers and students.”

James Giordano, a guidance counselor at a Bronx high school, said that he makes a habit of waiting about four years after a student has graduated to friend one and that he’s glad the district is discussing the issue.

“I hope that they distinguish between personal Facebook pages and pages that are professional,” he said. “It would be a shame if Facebook altogether was banned from use by educators, because it’s a valuable resource.”

Fort Santiago among Asia’s Top 10 endangered architectural treasures – Global Heritage Fund

NEW YORK – Asia’s architectural treasures, from a Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan, an ancient city in China and other Asian architectural treasures are in danger of vanishing under a tide of economic expansion, war and tourism, experts said Thursday.

The Global Heritage Fund named 10 sites as the most in danger of "irreparable loss and destruction."

"These 10 sites represent merely a fragment of the endangered treasures across Asia and the rest of the developing world," the fund’s executive director Jeff Morgan said in presenting a report.

The architectural gems from across Asia’s ancient and sophisticated cultures are struggling in the face of economic expansion, sudden floods of tourists and areas of lawlessness and war.

"We’re looking at these millennial civilizations leapfrogging into the 21st century at a kind of pace that is unheard of, unprecedented," said Vishakha Desai, president of the Asia Society, which hosted a conference based on the report.

Experts said that architectural preservation has nowhere near the financial and political backing that nature conservancy enjoys.

"Heritage is being dramatically undervalued. Thus, the reinvestment and the focus on heritage is lacking today," Morgan said, warning that the endangered sites were doomed without quick help.

"We’re going to lose them on our watch in the next 10 years."

Shirley Young, head of the US-China Cultural Institute, stressed that it was "not really just about beautiful buildings, beautiful sites."

"I think we’d agree," she said, "that a world without history is a world without soul."

The top 10 endangered sites, according to the Global Heritage Fund, are:
Ayutthaya in Thailand, a former Siamese capital known as the "Venice of the East."
Fort Santiago in the Philippines.
Kashgar, one of the last preserved Silk Road cities in China.
Mahasthangarh, one of South Asia’s earliest archeological sites in Bangladesh.
Mes Aynak, an Afghan Buddhist monastery complex on the Silk Road.
Myauk-U, capital of the first Arakanese kingdom in Myanmar.
Plain of Jars, a mysterious megalithic site in Laos.
Preah Vihear, a Khmer architectural masterpiece in Cambodia.
Rakhigarhi, one of the biggest, ancient Indus civilization sites in India.
Taxila, an ancient economic crossroads in Pakistan.