30 August 2012

Sereno lied on her track record


By: Rigoberto Tiglao
Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:42 am | Thursday, August 30th, 2012

“Fresh start,” “Excellent choice,” “Sereno’s big task”—the headlines were on the appointment of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. C’mon now. Wasn’t the story that the appointment was so unexpected and shocking that no one, not even any of President Aquino’s most ardent apologists, had expected he would make such an in-your-face decision? Wasn’t it so controversial that nine of the 13 Supreme Court associate justices boycotted the swearing in of their unwanted Chief?

Isn’t it so obvious that Sereno’s real “qualification” was that she was the only nominee Mr. Aquino could be 100-percent sure would do his bidding? She has proven this beyond doubt in the last two years, especially when she outdid Hacienda Luisita’s lawyers in arguing for P10-billion compensation for the President’s clan.

“She is the first, and hopefully the last associate justice and Chief Justice not to have even seen the insides of a courtroom,” a top lawyer wryly commented. “The chances of somebody with her qualifications fairly becoming Chief Justice—without Aquino’s need to appoint a puppet—is the same as your chances of winning the lotto,” another barrister remarked.

A moral, principled person would have resisted the temptation to glorify one’s ego, and decline a post she knows in her heart she isn’t qualified for, in order to avoid the risk of damaging one of the three pillars of the Republic. Yet Sereno—an obscure law professor before Mr. Aquino made her his first associate justice in 2010—rushed to campaign for the post as soon as she was nominated, and quickly set up a Facebook account named “Why Justice Sereno should be appointed as Chief Justice.”

Read her biodata posted there, and it’s the ho-hum life of a lackluster academic, disinterested in some noble cause (in contrast, say, to feminist fighter candidate Katrina Legarda), doing research and writing unremarkable papers here and there as hundreds of law-school instructors do.

Not even a full professor, she’s mediocre, compared to academic candidates like Raul Pangalangan, who not only has a Ph.D. in law from Harvard but two postdoctoral degrees. She wasn’t outstanding enough to be a law-school dean like five other nominees to the post. In the last 10 years, she published only six short articles on legal issues, mostly on commercial law—an embarrassing output for an academic.

Mr. Aquino claimed that he chose Sereno because “she can best reform the judiciary.” But nowhere in her entire career did she show any passionate interest in judicial reform. The only claim for this is the item she listed in her CV: “Principal Consultant, Law and Economics/Project on Judicial Reform (UNDP-Supreme Court).” However, that falsely portrays that she had the principal role in the high court’s historic ongoing reform program, begun in 1998 and managed by the chief justices since Hilario Davide. The program has had hundreds of consultants for almost all aspects of the judicial system in the country, with “law and economics” just one of these.

Sereno’s interest has been in international commercial law, and her major participation in the disposition of justice has been in short, dollar-paying international engagements, providing research on aspects of the Philippine legal system for international bodies.

Her last private posting is an indication of a floundering career: “executive director” of the AIM Policy Center—a misnomer for a moribund unit whose main activity in the past many years has been to organize the press launch of studies of other institutes and scholars.

One would have to fabricate things to spruce up an unremarkable legal career to be deserving of a post in the high tribunal—and she did.

As one of her purported major accomplishments to justify her appointment as associate justice in 2010, Sereno claimed, as the Palace statement put it, that “she was co-counsel with Justice Florentino Feliciano” in the Fraport case before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. That claim has been in her biodata posted in the high court’s website, and reported in all news articles on her background.

That’s a lie. Sereno is not among the nine counsels representing the government in the Centre’s records. There weren’t “co-counsels” in that case. The truth is that she was merely the personal legal researcher and documentation lawyer of the 77-year-old Feliciano, and not of the government.

In fact, when she publicly claimed credit for the Republic’s winning the case, the government’s New York-based lead private counsel, White & Case’s senior partner Carolyn Lamm, was so mad that she went to the country to demand that the Solicitor General correct Sereno’s claim. (The government won in the Centre’s first decision in 2007, which was however annulled in 2010, with the case resuming in July 2012.)

Probably realizing that her false claim will be put to closer scrutiny with her nomination as Chief Justice, Sereno deleted it in the curriculum vitae she submitted to the Judicial and Bar Council and posted in her Facebook account.

If she really doesn’t have the qualifications and experience to be in the Supreme Court, then who has been writing—and will write—her judgments in the tribunal? Can she categorically say that she did not consult with Mr. Aquino’s lawyers for her kilometric conclusions, especially in the cases involving the Truth Commission, Hacienda Luisita, and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s right to travel abroad—which echoed, even amplified, the Palace’s thinking? Has she ever gone against Mr. Aquino’s line?

Mr. Aquino has undertaken a coup against the Republic: He has seized the Supreme Court and installed his factotum.

21 August 2012

Deliberate deception

Strategic Perspective
Rene B. Azurin
Posted on 15 August 2012
Business World

OUTRIGHT DECEPTIONS are apparently permissible in what really appears to be a conspiracy to foist the Commission on Elections (Comelec)-favored Smartmatic automated election system on the Filipino people. This no longer surprises.

Perhaps as part of the "foisting" effort, the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms of the House of Representatives called on Smartmatic-TIM Corp. to conduct "an end-to-end election simulation…to once and for all address the issue of accuracy." That "demo" -- a "mock election" with some 1,000 voters -- was done at the House last July 24 and 25. Votes were cast through a Smartmatic machine, the machine issued its count, and a manual verification of the count was then done to check if there were discrepancies between the electronic and the manual count. Presumably, Smartmatic used its best machine for the demo, one that it had thoroughly tested.

Unfortunately for Smartmatic and its conspirators, the actual results of the mock election revealed performance deficiencies in the Smartmatic precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine, in the form of below-standard accuracy levels. As a result, Smartmatic was forced to fudge the figures it showed in its "Mock Elections Summary Report" (dated August 3rd) to make its machine appear more accurate than it actually was. Doubtless, the intention was to hide the deficiencies and effectively deceive the public.

The fudging was pointed out by Dr. Felix Muga II, mathematics professor at the Ateneo University. (The fudging was also noticed by many others.) For example, in the "senatorial" count, Smartmatic’s PCOS machine counted 6,184 votes and the manual verification showed an actual 6,309 votes, a difference of 125 votes. Smartmatic then reported that the "Percentage of Match between Manual and Electronic Count is 99.98019%," a figure that has no arithmetical basis and seems to have been just conjured out of thin air. Dr. Muga says, "The calculation is wrong since (1 - 125 / 6,309) x 100% = 98.0187%." It should be noted that this figure is well below the accuracy level of 99.999% specified in the Terms of Reference and its contract with Comelec.

Moreover, Dr. Muga adds, that method of calculating "match" is actually "misleading." He says, "The PCOS Count differed in 50 of the 55 senatorial candidates. Hence, the percentage of match between the PCOS count and the manual count for all of the senatorial candidates is a measly 9.0909%." That’s nine percent.

In the "presidential" count, Smartmatic reported a "Percentage of Match between Manual and Electronic Count [of] 99.99280%," basing this on a net difference of 6 between the total presidential votes of 833 counted by the PCOS machine and the total presidential votes of 827 counted in the manual verification. The figure is derived from (1 - 6 / 833) x 100% = 99.99280%. Again, this is wrong. In the actual results, it must be the absolute differences -- not the net differences (positive discrepancies shouldn’t cancel out negative discrepancies) -- in the count for each candidate that determines accuracy. Dr. Muga says, "If we sum up the absolute difference between the manual count and the PCOS count for each of the presidential candidates, we shall obtain 52. Hence, the accuracy of the PCOS Count compared to the manual count is (1 - 52 / 827) x 100% = 93.7172213%." Again, this is way below the required 99.999%.

Additionally, Dr. Muga adds, "It [that figure] does not explain why the PCOS Count differs from the manual count in 33 out of 55 presidential candidates. Thus, the actual percentage of match between the manual and the PCOS count for all of the presidential candidates is only 40%."

To mislead appears to be the actual intention of the Smartmatic report. In other words, this has to be a deliberate deception.

It should be stressed that the miserable performance of the Smartmatic machine occurred in what, by any definition, was merely a simple marketing demo under ideal conditions, not a real product test. If their carefully chosen machine cannot meet specifications under ideal conditions, how can their run-of-the-mill machines meet these under actual (and non-ideal) field conditions?

A real product test would consist of a full-blown hardware and software evaluation by technical experts in computer performance and system security. The multi-sector citizens’ election monitoring group AES Watch, in several letters to the Commission on Elections, asked that Comelec "allow Filipino IT computer security experts to do end-to-end and top-bottom TESTING of the PCOS system" and not let Smartmatic get away with "mere marketing demos of their product." AES Watch complains that Chairman Brillantes is doing nothing about this request. They say that "instead of creating a committee which would allow the full participation of the Filipino IT community in the testing of the system for fraud, the Comelec is creating a ‘grievance committee’ and nothing else." They consider this "a big insult to the intelligence of the Filipino IT practitioner and election watchdogs."

AES watch correctly points out that Mr. Brillantes’s new grievance committee is only a poorer version of the Comelec Advisory Committee of technical experts whose recommendation not to purchase the flawed Smartmatic system Mr. Brillantes and his fellow commissioners have already pointedly ignored.

So why does Chairman Brillantes and his complicit fellow commissioners continue to resist the idea of a comprehensive product test of the Smartmatic automated election system? With the clear failure of the Smartmatic machines "demo-ed" last July 24-25 to perform as per required specifications, plus the subsequent fudging of figures in the August 3 report on the demo, this refusal takes on a sinister meaning.

One leading industry practitioner laments, "It’s obvious that Comelec is just stonewalling and unwilling to let the Filipino IT community be involved. Comelec is not being transparent. Also, in the way it justified its decision upholding the legality of Comelec’s purchase of the Smartmatic PCOS machines, it seems that the Supreme Court was even lawyering for Comelec. It’s disgusting, frustrating, infuriating. I don’t know how we can continue to stomach this nonsense." The Filipino people should be disgusted, frustrated, and infuriated as well.

15 August 2012

A matter of fairness

Philippine Catholic Bishops’ Statement on End of Debates of Reproductive Health Bill
"The Catholic Church and Those Who Are Similarly Minded Ask for Nothing More Than Fairness"

MANILA, Philippines, AUG. 14, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the statement from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on recent act by Congress to end debates for the proposed Reproductive Health Bill.

* * *

A Matter of Fairness

CBCP Statement on the recent voting in the House of Representatives ending the debates on the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill

It was not supposed to happen. The agreement was to vote on August 7, 2012, when every side would have been ready and prepared to defend its cause as in any democratic setting.

Unfortunately, in a move remarkable in its stealth and swiftness, the ruling group of the House of Representatives, on August 6, 2012, managed to force a vote that terminated the period of debates on the RH Bill. It came a full day too soon, just when “no one was looking”. Except for the cabal of schemers, people were caught off-guard by the suddenness of the execution, especially those who oppose the Bill on faith or principle.

We are dismayed by the display of naked power. We lament the unilateral disregard of prior agreement in the pursuit of selfish goals. We detest the unbridled resort to foul tactics. We denounce the brazen disregard of the basic tenets of fair play and attempt to railroad the passage of the Bill. Not least, we question the surrender of legislative discretion to an intrusive President, reminiscent of the events leading to the impeachment proceedings.

The Catholic Church and those who are similarly minded ask for nothing more than fairness. After all, we have as much right to expose the dangers and ills of the Bill as those who promote it. So much is at stake in this fight for life: protection of women’s health against harmful contraceptives; preservation of parental authority over minor children; protection of the youth against valueless sex education; wrongful discrimination of the poor; wasteful disbursement of billions of pesos for contraceptives while many of the poor die of cancer, tuberculosis, dengue and other ailments without the benefit of medicine; suppression of dissent and civil liberties through threatened imprisonment and gradual annihilation of the Philippine race through systematic reduction of maternal fertility rate.

In the face of a well-funded campaign to have the RH Bill passed as envisioned by foreign institutions, and despite the undeserved attacks it is reaping, the Catholic Church stands firm in its resolve to fight this deadly measure at every turn and no matter the cost ― all for love of God, flock, and country.

We commend the bravery and dedication of legislators who continue to resist the Bill even at the risk of retaliation from the powers-that-be. To them go our blessing and the gratitude of the faithful. Their courageous and patriotic acts will be remembered long after the last debate had been waged and the final vote had been cast.

Finally, we urge all devoted Catholics to unite against the Bill. Intensify your prayers and let your voices be heard and your actions seen against this deadly measure. Truth is on our side. Developed countries with dwindling population are beginning to realize the folly of population control, and some, like Singapore, regret having adopted it. Most importantly, the Bill’s anti-life features go against our Constitution, our treasured traditions and the basic teachings of the Catholic Church as enunciated years ago by Pope Paul VI and Blessed John Paul II.

For and in behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
Archbishop of Cebu & President, CBCP
13 August 2012