5th bar weekend

3-5 october 2009

the skies were gray when i proceeded to orchid suites on the first saturday of october. pepeng was threatening to bring heavy winds and rain all over the metro, but whatever hopes we had of having the exams postponed just like what happened the week before (when ondoy hit metro manila) were quickly dashed by an announcement from midas (the supreme court spokesperson) the day before: "the bar exams will push through." there was no turning back.

while part of me wanted to end the misery as soon as possible, part of me didn't want the whole thing to end just yet. maybe i wasn't ready for the exams (who will ever be ready?) or maybe i have gotten used to the routine of waking up each morning, preparing for another day of studying, that if everything ended that sunday, what will i do next? haha, silly, i know. the geek in me just could not resist: i was starting to miss studying even before it ended.

or maybe it was the fear that after the bar exams, we now have to fend for ourselves: work, work, work. goodbye daily allowance. goodbye "student" privileges.

or maybe it was the thought that the familiar faces known as the block, which had become our source of strength day in day out for the past four and a half years, will have to go separate ways.

or maybe it was the idea that after the exams, there was nothing else we could do about our fate. we either pass, or fail, and everything will no longer be in our hands.

whatever it is, the storm that was brewing inside accounted for that eery feeling: there was excitement for sure, but there was also anxiety.

the tension eased up a bit when i finally entered the room full of blockmates. the first person i looked for was jen. i knew she was deeply affected by the floods the week before. she was unusually ok. for a person who lost everything (save for her reviewer, codal, and the ever-important bar permit), she was smiling and joking with everyone as if nothing happened. amazing how she was able to cope. had it been me, i wouldn't have known how to finish the exams.

judging from the banter inside the room, it seemed as if there were no exams the next day. i was trying to cram legal forms for a while but i soon joined the fray and was taking pictures just like the old times. i thought, if these were to be our last study moments together, better capture them on film, er, on cam.

rains started to pour later that afternoon. dusk fell and before we knew it, we were walking our way to la salle early sunday morning. this is it, the final day.

the hours went by quickly, but even moreso with legal ethics. with only three hours, the examiners asked for four legal forms, the lawyer's oath, and a whole set of questions worth 1 or 2 points each. my hands were already hurting when, at 20 minutes before 5, i still had two legal forms to do and some questions left to answer. i scribbled as fast as i could, never mind the margins, never mind the hurried handwriting, never mind if my answers were as short as one or two sentences. i have to finish this exam and hope for partial points, i thought.

luckily enough, i managed to finish just as the bell rang. i left the room and looked for my other batchmates. we went out of la salle and marched through taft as one group. there, waiting for us, was a group of familiar faces, the same people who'd asked how the exams went and the same persons who'd tell us everything will be fine. they're also the same ones who, for the past few months, had taken turns to provide us, bar examinees, with whatever help we needed. as a barops volunteer myself, i know how difficult it must have been for them especially when things didn't always go smoothly. yet, at the end of the day and at that precise moment, their mere presence was what mattered most.

after the temporary euphoria at taft otherwise known as the salubong, i went back to orchid with my blockmates. we posed for some pictures but the exhaustion and the frustratingly lengthy ethics exam were dampening our spirits. we decided to rent a room and make the most of our stay at the hotel, this time with no exams to worry about. we went to dinner together and headed back to the hotel. peach and i attended the toned down beerops and smuggled some booze. but instead of drinking, we ended up talking well into the wee hours of the morning. (peach got to bring home a box of booze hehe, peace peach).

we woke up late the next day. 8 am is late for any bar examinee; but we were bar examinee no more so we stayed in bed for a bit. ah, how good it felt to get more sleep without worrying about the day to come. quoting cj: ang sarap ng pakiramdam na gigising ka sa umaga na walang iniisip kung ilang pages ang kailangang basahin o kung ilang subjects pa ang kailangang aralin.

it was already afternoon when i arrived home the monday after the exam. i could feel the heat, the kind that breaks deep into your skin and makes you weak. but for some reason, i was upbeat and excited and was anxious no longer. i thought about the things that i will and can do from hereon. i will not worry about the results for the meantime. i looked outside the window and saw the sun shining brightly. the storm is over. things are looking good. and i am free at last!...after four and a half years.

p.s.: to everyone who helped us make it through the bar exams, thank you!

more pics at: driven 2


dunkin aral moments

june 2009 nang magsimulang pumasok ang panic mode na dulot ng bar exams. tatlong buwan na lang bago magseptember, hindi pa ako tapos sa first reading. iniisip ko, kailangang magpuyat para matapos ang dapat tapusin. hence, the hunt for the nearest 24-hour food place, na mura lang pero masarap ang pagkain.

dito ko narediscover ang dunkin donuts sa aurora. walking distance lang from the house. mura at masarap ang food, may cr na, at libre pa ang water at aircon. higit sa lahat, wala akong kakilala!

mahigit tatlong buwan din akong halos araw-araw na tumambay sa dunkin. noong una, magdamagan. pero nung papalapit na ang bar exams, sinimulan ko ng 7:30am hanggang mga 11 ng gabi. uwi lang for lunch at dinner. minsan, sa sobrang desperation, dun na rin ako bumibili ng lunch sa nagdedeliver para sa crew. at ang alas11, nagiging alas dose o ala una, hangga't di pa sumasakit ang ulo ko.

sa tagal ng pinalagi ko dun, nakilala ko na rin ang mga staff. alam ko kung kelan nagsisimula at nagtatapos ang shift nila, kung kelan nakastraight na dalawang shifts sila dahil walang kahalili, at kung kelan merong hindi makakapasok.

sila din, alam na rin nila na hindi ako nagkakape, walang yelo ang tubig ko, at pine-orange ang gusto kong juice. minsan, nagtatanong din sila kung bakit ako absent sa dunkin.

sa maiiksing panahong nagkakausap kami ng crew, kahit papano may alam na rin ako nang konti sa mga buhay-buhay nila. may isang nagpapaaral ng kapatid, may working student at may isang nurse na at nagtitraining pero tuloy pa rin ang trabaho sa dunkin. karamihan sa kanila, kinailangang huminto sa pag-aaral at tumulong sa pamilya.

sabi ng isang crew minsan, "sir, ang swerte n'yo naman, wala kayong problema." napaisip ako: ang bar exams, hindi ba problema yun? hindi ko nga alam kung pano tatapusin yung mga binabasa ko at kung pano isisiksik lahat ng nabasa ko sa munting utak ko.

pero kung titingnan mo nga naman, hindi siya problema. isa syang pagkakataon, pagkakataon na mapatunayan mong karapat-dapat kang maging abogado. kung problema man yun, definitely not in the same league ng problema nila. funny, kasi for a bar examinee, ang mundo ay nakaikot sa bar exams. pero hindi naman tumitigil ang mundo sa pag-ikot para sa iba. at may iba pang mas higit na suliranin.

naisip ko rin, kung yung crew halos walang kapaguran na pumapasok 6 days a week, doing physical work for 8 hours straight, or kung minsan, 16 hours straight, anong karapatan kong mapagod at magtamad-tamaran e nagbabasa lang naman ako, kumakain, at nakikinig sa music? anong karapatan kong magreklamo sa five months of solitude, a.k.a. bar review, e hindi naman lahat nabibigyan ng ganitong pagkakataon?

wherever i am now, i'm lucky to have gotten this far. it would be an injustice to waste this opportunity by not making the most out of it. siguro i just needed some donuts and new acquaintances to remind me of that.

para sa crew ng dunkin, salamat sa pagdamay sa puyatan at sa magdamagang/buong araw na aralan. hindi ko na kayo maaabutan pag-uwi ko sa january dahil most of you endo na, at malamang hindi niyo to mababasa, pero salamat dahil hindi ko alam kung pano ko malalampasan ang bar review without your help, just by being nice and by being there.

at para sa ating lahat: sa crew, sa mga kasabay kong nag-aaral sa dunkin, at sa mga kasama kong nagtake ng bar exams, isang taimtim na panalangin: that someday, we get to live the good life that we all deserve.

dunkin crew (june to october 2009): ma'am agie, sir franz, ma'am april, sir ron, sir nhardz, paul, marvin, zoren, deza, joli, mar, osang, gene, tin, dhen, laine, jezza, anne, joseph, je, jhaytee, mikki at dalawang kuya guards.

mga nag-endo na: lorie, rj, philip & dy

mga nagresign: lablet, mhong at iba pa.

more pics at: driven 2


good news and a tragedy

it's official: GAGRADUATE na ako! ironically, the last grade to come out was nego haha.

and i said yes. God please guide me.

thank you Lord for all the blessings.

bless the soul of trina etong and condolences to her family. still unclear what happened; hope things clear up so the truth will come out and justice will be served.

the police are doing a lousy job. no need for warrant of arrest because of violation of obstruction of justice? what the heck? and why the cruel treatment of the suspects?

heads should roll after this.


how i spent my 24th birthday

9 april 2009

how do you spend your birthday on a maundy thursday?

i spent almost the entire day digging through mounds of accumulated readings from first year to fourth year, sorting them out and looking for the best notes and reviewers for the bar.

went to mass and confession with my lola.

went on visita iglesia with jae and erwin before heading for a late night pizza.

what a "holy" birthday. no lechon. no party. no booze. well, there's still ice cream. but it was great nonetheless.

salamat sa mga nakaalala. sa mga hindi, ayos lang, busog naman ako so no cranky time.

and to all of you who have been part of the past year: salamat nang marami. i cannot thank you enough. i don't know how to start repaying you back. si "bro" na ang bahala sa inyo.



this is just too much

A Killing Too Far: Rebelyn Pitao

by KEITH BACONGCO | 03/14/2009 | 8:51 AM

DAVAO CITY – Rebelyn was wearing her white school teacher’s uniform when she left home to go to work. “Ma, lakaw na ko (Ma, I have to go now),” she called out to her mother Evangeline.

It was 6:30 a.m. – the last time Mrs. Pitao saw her 20-year old daughter. It was the last time she ever heard her voice.

Rebelyn usually arrived back home by 6:30 p.m. each school day. But last week, Wednesday March 4, there was no sign of her. Mrs. Pitao was worried: An hour and a half later, local police officers and a tricycle driver knocked on her door and brought news that Rebelyn had been abducted on her way home by armed gunmen.

“When I heard she had been taken, I knew I would never see her alive again,” said Mrs. Pitao from her small house in Bago Galera, Toril District in Davao City. “I knew they would kill her because they were angry at her father.”

Rebelyn, who would have turned 21 on March 20, was the third child and daughter of New People’s Army (NPA) leader Leoncio Pitao, also known as Commander Parago. Her partially-naked body was found late the following day, Thursday March 5, in an irrigation ditch in Barangay (village) San Isidro in Carmen, Davao Del Norte, about 50 kilometers north from here. She had been bound, gagged, raped and repeatedly stabbed in the chest.

“There were rope markings around her neck and mud all over her body,” her mother told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project. “She was like a carabao.”

According to the Scene of Crime Operatives (SOCO) of the Davao City police, Rebelyn had been dead for more than 20 hours before she was found by a local farmer. It suggests she was killed very soon after being taken.

“Her body bore five wounds inflicted by a thin sharp object such as an ice pick, which pierced her lungs and liver,” according to Dr. Tomas Dimaandal who conducted the autopsy at a local funeral home. His report added that her genitals had suffered cuts “possibly caused by a hard object.” Her mouth had been taped up.

Mrs. Pitao explained how, with the police officers listening, tricycle driver Danny Peliciano told her that two unknown men had boarded his vehicle alongside Rebelyn when she climbed in to ride home. As they neared Bago Gallera de Oro subdivision a white van – a Toyota Revo – blocked their path and forced the tricycle to stop.

“Two other men came out of the van and dragged her out of the tricycle. The driver said Rebelyn was screaming for help but he could not do anything because the men were armed. The driver said he ran away. Then they dragged my daughter inside the van.”

Mrs. Pitao believes the other two men on the tricycle were accomplices and all four men climbed in the van.

The abduction site is about 300 meters from the national highway and is beside a church with the nearest house 50 meters away.

Peliciano is now missing: A fellow driver who did not wish to be named said that right after the incident he quit working his usual route and disappeared. “He is no longer staying at home and we have no idea where he is now. I think he went into hiding because he is a witness,” said the man.

Mrs. Pitao believes her daughter may have been attacked inside the van or taken to a place in nearby Panabo City or Carmen where she was tied up, tortured and killed soon after and then taken after dark to the ditch.

It is believed she was dumped there between midnight and 1 a.m.

According to a police report obtained by the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project from the Carmen police station, Rebelyn’s body was discovered by rice farmer Raffy Agres whose signed affidavit says he found her lying in the flooded ditch at around 5 p.m. that Thursday.

“You could hardly see the body even when you were just beside the canal because of the grass here and the ridge,” said banana plantation worker Noel Lanoy who was with Agres when Rebelyn was found.

“He screamed out that a body had been dumped and it was a summary killing,” said Lanoy. “I first thought it was a banana tree trunk.”

Egles Brieta whose house lies about 100 meters away from the scene, says she didn’t see or hear any vehicle that would have been needed to dump Rebelyn’s body. “It is so quiet here, yet we didn’t hear anything or anybody.”

A makeshift bamboo cross now stands in the knee-deep water where Rebelyn was found. According to Brieta, the bodies of two men were also found dumped here in 2004.

Outrage and denials

The abduction, torture and killing of Rebelyn have been met with widespread disgust and condemnation alongside public pledges to deliver justice and ensure an open, independent and transparent investigation.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered government agencies to conduct a thorough investigation, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has called the abduction, torture and murder “a deed most foul and the work of a monster.”

A senior military officer has called it “a crime against humanity,” with Senator Richard Gordon calling it a “war crime.”

So far however, Task Force Rebelyn, the group set up to investigate the crime claims it has few real leads. Davao City Police Chief Senior Superintendent Ramon Apolinario initially complained his men had only a few clues to work with – the testimonies of the tricycle driver and the rice farmer who found her –along with a description of the van allegedly used.

Rebelyn’s guerilla father claims the vehicle has been spotted parked outside a “known army safe house in Carmen” –something the military hotly denies.

Almost from the very moment she was reported missing, the Philippine Army’s high command has come out vehemently and repeatedly in public to deny the military was in any way responsible for Rebelyn’s abduction or her subsequent torture and killing.

But after her own father –Commander Parago – publicly named four military suspects as his daughter’s killers on Sunday, the Army’s position has slowly changed. While it still denies any responsibility, it now admits two of the men Parago mentioned are currently their military intelligence officers who are now “restricted” to the barracks at the 10th Infantry Division headquarters in Camp Panacan in Davao.

The military is now pledging 100 per cent cooperation with the police inquiry but insists the investigation also has to follow up all other leads too.

A few days earlier, Major General Reynaldo B. Mapagu, Commander of the 10th ID, denied any involvement of the military in the killing of Rebelyn, adding that it was “not the policy of the Philippine Army to target civilians in its campaign against the communist insurgents.”

And in a separate press statement, Lt. Colonel Rolando Bautista, 10th ID spokesperson, said they understand the ordeal of the family of Rebelyn “but it would be unfair to blame the incident (on) the military.”

In the hours after she first went missing, military sources suggested Rebelyn was probably the victim of infighting between members of the NPA. They added that she may also have been targeted by relatives of people who were themselves kidnapped and abused by Parago over the years.

But Rebelyn’s father is adamant that no other group could be behind her killing and claims the army “lashed out at her because they couldn’t get me.”

He does not believe that any government-led investigation will bring justice for her daughter.

“There were so many investigations for the victims of extrajudicial killings but none so far have been solved,” he said. “Not just political killings but also killing of journalists in this country -what happened to their investigations?”

Ominously, he added: “We (the NPA) will be the ones to investigate and punish those behind the killing of my daughter.”

Prepared with sacrifices

Chief of the NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Command which operates in the fringes of this huge city, Parago said the killing of his daughter would “strengthen and intensify the efforts to continue the revolution.

“I’m hurt and I’m enraged. Yet even if I cry, there’s nothing I could do to bring her back. When I learned that she was abducted, I already knew that were going to kill her. I’ve been expecting that to happen not just to my daughter but to my entire family as well.”

Parago’s son Ryan claims he too was attacked by military agents and now lives with his father as an NPA guerilla. “They tried to stab me in 2005 and the next day I left to come here. Had I not, I would have been dead now just like Rebelyn.”

Parago broke his silence three days after her daughter was found dead. The Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project and several journalists met up with him at a location in the outskirts of this city.

“Since I joined the NPA (in 1978), I’ve been expecting that something will happen to my family,” he said. “You have to be prepared with all the sacrifices in all aspects when you’ll join the revolution.”

Clad in black military uniform, smoking a cigarette and in full battle dress, the 51-year-old Parago worried that what happened to Rebelyn may also happen to other members of his family. “There is a big possibility that they will do my family harm because they could hardly capture me.”

Parago accused two named sergeants with the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and two named officers serving in the Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB) as those who he says are directly responsible for his daughter’s death. In a separate interview with a radio station he also named others –including an Army major.

Parago said that based on the NPA’s “own intelligence information,” the four intelligence officers were responsible for the killing of his brother Danilo in June last year alongside others. “My brother was a provincial guard of Davao del Norte -he was a government employee, and yet still he was killed.”

A spokesperson of the Army’s 10th ID has confirmed the names Parago mentioned to the journalists are members of the military. Two of them he confirmed are being held in the divisional barracks. The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson Major Randolph Cabangbang said the military would fully cooperate with the police investigation.

“We are also affected; the military organization is very concerned about this and by the perception of civilians. We are not looking into this incident as soldiers but as fathers too,” stressed Cabangbang.

He added they were also investigating the white Toyota Revo with the plate number LPG-588 that was reportedly used in abducting Rebelyn. “We verified the plate number to the Land of Transportation office,” he said – “but apparently it is not registered or found in the LTO’s database.”

Cabangbang was adamant there “would be no whitewash or cover-up” in the investigation “even if the suspects are from the military.”

He added: “We will give the PNP (Philippine National Police) a free hand on this. We also welcome an independent body to conduct its own investigation to help bring justice for Rebelyn. This incident is already beyond the fighting between the AFP and the NPA, this is already an attack against humanity.”

He flatly denied the military conducted surveillance on the Pitao family: “The only subject for our surveillance is Parago - not his entire family”

Elusive Parago

Parago has long been a wanted man: Former commander of the Philippine Army's 10th ID Major General Jogy Leo Fojas last year vowed his troops would “nail the elusive Parago” before the end of 2008.

Parago has been accused of kidnapping and killing civilians, whom the NPA suspected as “military intelligence assets.” He admits his guerillas have killed suspected informers in cold blood: Parago claimed he knew his “comrades” were responsible for the killing of an informer, but was “not around when the execution happened.”

”The People’s Court does not kill innocent civilians, we carefully examine their crimes against the people before we carry out punishments,” he said.

Yet there is no such recognized court under national or international law and many people see absolutely no difference between extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by the military and those said to be committed by the NPA.

In January 7, the NPA are believed to have killed Saturnino Rizaldo, a suspected member of the military intelligence group. A month later, they also reportedly murdered a second intelligence agent in Paquibato district here.

In a mobile phone interview, Simon Santiago, southern Mindanao political director of the NPA, told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project that the NPA executed Rizaldo because of his “crime against humanity.”

“The NPA has standing order against those who have committed serious crime against the masses,” Santiago stressed.

The other victim he said was “a former NPA member turned military asset.”

Remembering Rebelyn

Parago said he waited until his daughter was 11 before telling her he was the known Commander Parago of Southern Mindanao. “When they (my children) asked me where I was, I often told them I was working abroad.”

Shortly after his release from a prison sentence in 2000 and learning that he would again go back to join the NPA, Parago recalled Rebelyn saying: “Pa, abi nako mag uban na ta hangtud sa hangtud (Pa, I thought we would be together again forever).”

Parago was captured by military agents in 1999 at his home in Toril district. He was released without preconditions after spending just under two years in jail.

He also recounted the time when Rebelyn asked for a new pair of jeans and he couldn’t give her one. “I told her to ask for the old pair of jeans from her older sister. Rebelyn did it and did not complain. When her mother was finally able to give her a new pair, Rebelyn was so happy and grateful. Even for the smallest things, Rebelyn never forgot to say ‘thank you.’”

Mrs. Pitao also recalled that since Rebelyn was still small, she really wanted to be a teacher. “Since she was small, that was her dream -and she really fulfilled her dream,” she said.

Rebelyn served as a substitute teacher for five months at St. Peter’s College of Technology and taught Grade 2.

Her mother recalled how happy Rebelyn was when she had her first salary of PhP 7,800 (USD 162). “She was so happy because that was her first time that she actually had some real money.”

Mrs. Pitao added said that her daughter’s fellow teachers were surprised to learn she was the daughter of Commander Parago. “Yet their treatment towards us never changed. They even sympathized with us because they knew we were not part of the conflict -we were not combatants.”

Held hostage

Mrs. Pitao claimed the military had harassed their family in the past. In 1999, she insisted, seven military agents came into their house and briefly held the family hostage to force her husband to surrender.

“They knew my husband was coming down to visit us because it was All Saints Day,” she recalls. “The children were so scared because we were all held at gunpoint.”

Parago also claims to remember the alleged incident: “I went there to visit but was surprised to see the military. I had a grenade with me but had I tossed it inside my house it would have killed my family as well as the agents –and so I let myself get captured.”

Mrs. Pitao said the incident was a traumatic experience for the children: “Trauma has been gone for a long time but now it’s back again because of what happened to their sister.”

Safety of the family

Davao City Police have been providing 24-hour security during Rebelyn’s wake and Mrs. Pitao said she was thankful to Mayor Duterte. While having gone on record as saying he dismissed all allegations that any military or police officers could be involved in the killing, the mayor has made a public promise to Parago to find those responsible. The two have even spoken together on the phone.

For her part, Mrs. Pitao is refusing to comment on her family’s future security: “We cannot say anything about it now or what are we going to do now. We have yet to talk about it. But I admit that we are very affected. I’m worried about my children because two of them are still studying and they are now worried for their security.”

Rebelyn’s death brings the number of victims of extrajudicial killings in southern Mindanao since 2001 up to 93 according to Kelly Delgado, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan for southern Mindanao region.

Authorities contest Karapatan’s figure and insist it is much lower. But it is not known if either figure includes an anti-mining activist who was shot dead by two gunmen on Monday March 9 in nearby Koronadal City.

Delgado claims the killing of Rebelyn was intended as a warning: “This is a message for the family members of not just the NPA but as well those who are in the progressive organizations that they too can be targets,” Delgado said. “It is also a message meant to demoralize our ranks.”

“Since the government has set 2010 as the deadline to crush the communist movement, extrajudicial killings may even get worse because civilians whom they suspect as communist supporters will become soft targets,” Delgado said.

“The killings have become systemic and it is impossible to stop them. What we can do now is to become vigilant and impose security measures among people.”

Retired Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have set a 2010 deadline to end the insurgency.

But last year, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Alexander Yano admitted that the government might not be able to wipe out the 40-year-old communist movement by 2010.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), turns 40 on March 29 –the day before a public hearing on vigilante killings is due to open here.

Bishop Delfin Callao of the Philippine Independent Church has said that an independent body needs to be created to investigate Rebelyn’s killing.

“How can you investigate if you are the accused?” Callao asked reporters in a press conference last week. The investigation, he insisted, should not allow any representatives from government agencies, police or military to join.

"This will assure us of complete impartiality and the findings can be the basis of any criminal charges to be filed against the suspects.”

The investigating body, he said, should be composed of the people from church and civil society organizations. “Even if the government authorities snub the results, the most important thing here is we surface the truth.”

Rebelyn’s funeral and burial is due to be held here on Saturday March 14. Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

(The author is a journalist based in Davao City and one of the founders of AKP Images, an independent photo agency.)


Ditsi Carolino's LUPANG HINIRANG, March 12, 12nn-2pm, UP Malcolm Theater

Lupang Hinarang
is a film in two parts about a fierce and deadly battle raging between farmers and landowners in the continuing saga of agrarian reform in the Philippines. The documentary opens with the tribal Sumilao farmers, Ka Rene, Linda and Bajekjek, who, inspired by Gandhi’s protest march, journey on foot for two months from their mountain village in Bukidnon to the presidential palace in Manila.

It is a gruelling 1,700 kilometer journey through scorching heat, rains, fatigue, and great uncertainty. After weeks of walking, the farmers reach Manila, rally at the corporate offices of San Miguel, confront the agrarian reform secretary and grapple with anti-riot police before finally meeting the President.

The second part tells the story of the sugarcane workers from Negros. When the landowner’s armed guards kill one of the farmers in 2007, Chay Lindy, Chay Gamay, and Chay Biray go on a harrowing 29-day hunger strike with other farmers on the steps of the agrarian reform office in Manila. The hunger strike results in victory for the farmers until the film ends in a shocking climax.

Lupang Hinarang is a timely documentary set against ongoing debates in Congress to extend and reform CARP (CARPer) or to kill it.

When: March 12 (Thursday); 12nn - 2pm

Where: Malcolm Theater, UP College of Law

Meet the farmers and the filmmaker in the open forum which will be held after the screening.

Text 09175345373 for ticket inquiries. Limited seating available so please come early.

A minimum donation of P100 will be greatly appreciated.

Brought to you by the UP Law Student Government.

About the filmmaker

Ditsi Carolino studied documentary filmmaking at the National Film and Television School in England. “Riles: Life on the Tracks” (2002) an intimate portrait of a couple who live in the slums of Manila, is her graduation film. Riles: Life on the Tracks screened in many film festivals, won the Royal Television Award for Best Student Factual Film in the UK, Best Documentary at the CineManila International Film Festival, and was subsequently acquired for broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Nick Fraser of the BBC Storyville says of the film, “Through a semi-comedic device, Ditsi is able to paint a picture of survival in the Philippines… a charming, and somehow encouraging film – it celebrates ingenuity, and it’s very watchable.”

In 2004 “Bunso” (The Youngest), her film about kids in jail in the Philippines won Best Director at the One World International Film Festival, the Youth Jury Prize in Perspektiv: Human Rights Film Festival in Nuremberg and the Grand Prize at the EBS IFF in Seoul with IDFA’s Ally Derks as jury chair, and Trinh Minh Ha as member. This film was used extensively by a network of child rights advocates and was instrumental in the passage of the juvenile justice bill in the Philippines. In 2005, Ditsi got a grant from the Asian Cultural Council / Rockefellers Brothers Fund to explore the documentary scene in New York City for 6 months. She is now based in Manila, working on a film about landless peasants.


Unmasking the Myth of Reciprocity: A Forum on the VFA

The National Union of People's Lawyers and the Junk the VFA Movement in cooperation with the UP Law Student Government


A Forum on the Visiting Forces Agreement

speakers include Sen. KIKO PANGILINAN and Dean PACIFICO AGABIN

March 3, 2009, 1-4 pm, Malcolm Theater, UP College of Law


congrats to the new LSG officers; thank you from the current LSG Executive Board

Dear friends and fellow law students,

As of 8:30 p.m. last night, we elected a new set of officers in the Law Student Government.* This ushers in a new era in Malcolm Hall, with a new Constitution and with more LSG officers to serve the students and the College.

Elected into office are the following:

Justin Vincent "JV" La Chica

James Daniel "James" Donato
Vice President

Francesca Noelle "Cesca" Huang

Joseph Cristopher "Chris" Fernandez

Raymond Marvic "Ice" Baguilat

Maria Cristina "Shamby" Yambot
College Rep to the USC

Krizelle Marie "Krizelle" Poblacion
Danilo "Dan" Sebollena Jr.
4th year reps

Anna Maria Vinzons "Anna" Chato
Ma. Florence Therese "Chingkay" Martirez
3rd year reps

James Anthony "Tonton" Mina
Juan Antonio "Tonyboy" Oposa
2nd year reps

Darwin "Darwin" Angeles
Evening rep

*First year reps to be elected at the start of the next academic year.

Congratulations to the new LSG Central Board. Good luck and may you have a successful and productive year ahead!

On behalf of the current LSG Executive Board, our sincerest thank you to everyone for all the help and support throughout the year. It has been one hell of a journey. Tiring and frustrating at times, but fulfilling nevertheless. If we failed to meet your expectations, we apologize. We'll do our best in the remaining days in office to try to achieve what we have set out to do. Please continue supporting the new set of officers.

Again, maraming maraming salamat.

UP LSG EB 08-09. Jobert. Arianne. Bernice. Aaron. Janette. Sop.

Michael Jobert I. Navallo
Outgoing President, Law Student Government
University of the Philippines College of Law
Mobile: 09277930026
Landline: 410-0137
E-mail: jobertn@gmail.com


Sectoral Representation: A Forum to Consolidate Efforts to Amend the Party-list System


Feb 26, '09 1:00p
End: Feb 26, '09 4:00p


Prof. Bobby Tuazon
Director of Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy, Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), which conducted a 10-year Assessment of the Party-List System in the Philippines

Dr. Edna Co
Associate Professor, UP National College of Public Administration and Governance; member of the Philippine Democracy Assessment Team on Free and Fair Elections and the Democratic Role of Political Parties;

Atty. Christian Monsod
Delegate to the 1986 Constitutional Commission and co-sponsor of the party-list provision in the 1987 Constitution and a Representative from the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms of the House of Representatives


it's official: HOLIDAY on MONDAY (for schools only)

Proclamation 1728 (Declaring February 23, 2009 as Special Holiday for All Schools)




WHEREAS, this year marks the 23rd anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution;

WHEREAS, the historic event which restored and ushered political, social and economic reforms in the country, serves as an inspiration to Filipinos everywhere as we continue to chart our collective effort as a nation and as a people;

WHEREAS, it is but fitting that the entire Filipino nation be given the opportunity to observe this milestone in our country’s history;

NOW, THREFORE, I, EDUARDO R. ERMITA, Executive Secretary, by order of Her Excellency, PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, do hereby declare February 23, 2009 (Monday) as a special holiday for all private and public schools at all levels throughout the country.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

DONE in the City of Manila, this 19th day of February, in the year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Nine.

By order of the President:

Executive Secretary

too bad may hearing ako. at wala talaga akong pasok ng monday.



At around lunchtime on Wednesday, January 28, 2009, an Upsilonian was attacked by two fellow-UP students while he was attending class inside the Very Large Classroom of the Electrical and Electronics Engineering building. According to his brods, the victim was hit on the head by lead pipes, causing injuries which require confinement for several days. The assailants managed to escape despite security presence but were allegedly identified to be members of Sigma Rho Fraternity.


The incident followed several weeks of rumors that an on-going frat war exists between Sigma Rho and Upsilon. Until the incident last week, both frats denied any hostilities between them.


To prevent further escalation of tension and in view of the fact that the two frats have substantial membership in the college, the Dean's Office has temporarily banned non-law students from entering the premises of the college, from last Saturday until the next few days. Security personnel will inspect IDs and strictly implement the NO ID NO ENTRY policy. Police officers will also continue to be detailed in different areas of the Law Complex.


This is apart from the Memorandum issued by the College Secretary on 23 January 2009 prohibiting non-law students and strangers from loitering within the UP Law Complex. The Memorandum was meant to address concerns from some students that quite a number of non-law students have been frequenting the college. Some students complained of parking problems while others claimed to have been intimidated by the mere presence of a group of unfamiliar faces along the walkways. There is also the fear that attacks, similar to what happened at EEE, might take place inside the classrooms—a reasonable fear given previous incidents in the college.


In response to measures from the College Admin to ensure the security and safety of everyone in the Complex, we at the Law Student Government Executive Board echo the call for sobriety and cooperation.


We call on our fellow students to be vigilant and to report any suspicious behavior. Please WEAR YOUR ID at all times. This is to assist security personnel in ensuring that only those with official business in the college will roam the halls of the complex.


We call on the frats concerned to AVOID TAKING ANY FURTHER STEPS THAT MIGHT PROVOKE UNNECESSARY VIOLENCE. We understand that a truce has been reached; our challenge is for you to live up to your word. If, at all, the urge to hurt each other is uncontrollable, please spare innocent students from the wrath of your vengeance. Please do not compromise our security with a show of your machismo.


We call on the heads of Sigma Rho and Upsilon as well as those of the other frats to POLICE YOUR RANKS. As law students, we should be first in making sure that the laws are followed by those over whom we exercise moral authority. We call on alumni brods of these fraternities, including professors in the college, to exercise your influence over your resident brods. Please do not encourage nor condone irresponsible and criminal behavior.


We call on the UP Administration to MOVE QUICKLY TO INVESTIGATE THE EEE INCIDENT AND ALL PREVIOUS CASES OF FRATERNITY-RELATED VIOLENCE. Let us not give aggrieved parties an excuse to retaliate solely on the basis of a perceived lack of action.


The LSG EB CONDEMNS ALL ACTS OF SENSELESS VIOLENCE, whether within our college or outside. There is simply no excuse for committing a crime, moreso, if law students, supposedly learned in the law and presumably law-abiding citizens, are involved.


The security and safety of the students, both affiliated and unaffiliated, is our primary concern. Let's do our part to end this cycle of violence. We've heard it said before, we are saying it now and we will continue to do so until our goal is met: END THE VIOLENCE. It's time to grow up.





new number: 09277930026

hi! i lost my phone to a pickpocket while on my way home last night. gone along with it are your contact numbers and messages. i'm now in the process of trying to move on hehe. so here's my new number: 09277930026. please text me so i can store your number. thanks!

Michael Jobert I. Navallo
President, Law Student Government
University of the Philippines College of Law
Mobile: 09277930026
Landline: 410-0137
E-mail: jobertn@gmail.com



i lost my phone to a pickpocket while on my way home tonight. stupid me.

even more stupid, i decided to rely on good faith and texted my phone to plead to the pickpocket to please return my SIM card. that, of course, was an exercise in futility because the pickpocket turned the phone off when i tried calling. poor SIM must be lying around somewhere in katipunan.

so i'm incommunicado for the meantime. send me an email at jobertn@gmail.com if you need anything. better if you give me your number too so i can start rebuilding my contacts. will text you as soon as i get a new number.

hay, bakit ngayon pa!



i've succumbed to facebook! actually, i reactivated my account just so i can invite more people to vote in the UP Law Students' Constitution Plebiscite, Feb. 2-4, 2008, Student Lounge. pathetic, i know, but i'm desperate haha.

Jobert Navallo's Facebook profile



Dear fellow students of the law,


Last Sunday, 25 January 2009, members of the Law Student Government Executive Board, General Assembly and Electoral and Judicial Tribunal met for the last time to finalize amendments to the current Law Student Government (approved in 2005). The amendments have been in the offing for the past two years, propelled by the need to have a more efficient representation, to address loopholes in the law, and to meet contingencies, such as the impending de-blocking next year.


We are proposing major changes for your consideration:


2005 Law Student Government Constitution

2009 Law Students' Constitution

LSG is composed of three bodies:


EXECUTIVE BOARD – duly elected representatives (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Public Relations Officer and College Rep to the University Student Council)


GENERAL ASSEMBLY – composed of the heads of the 19 blocks in the college; decides matters of policy


ELECTORAL & JUDICIAL TRIBUNAL – oversees the conduct of elections and impeachment proceedings



LSG will be composed of only two bodies:


CENTRAL BOARD – duly elected representatives (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Public Relations Officer, College Rep to the University Student Council, 2 reps from each of the year levels and 2 reps from the evening blocks) who will now exercise both executive and legislative functions


ELECTORAL & JUDICIAL TRIBUNAL – composed of fifteen (15) commissioners (transitionally 7), chosen mainly on the basis of character and competence to serve as overseers of elections and impeachment proceedings and decide other actual controversies with regard to the Constitution

In addition:


ORGANIZATIONAL AFFAIRS BOARD – Constitutional body composed of representatives of different organizations in the college


ACADEMIC REFORMS COMMITTEE – standing committee under the Executive Board tasked to propose changes in the curriculum


NATIONAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE – standing committee under the Executive Board whose main objective is to develop social awareness and public responsibility among students of the college

In addition:


BAR OPERATIONS COMMISSION – now a Constitutional commission which will no longer be headed by the Vice President but will be led by a Commissioner appointed by the President at the end of the first semester.


ACADEMIC REFORMS COMMISSION – now a Constitutional commission which will serve as the students' voice in the formulation and implementation of academic and administrative policies and regulations




The NATIONAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, now the PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, will be under the Vice President.


Why the changes?


1.       From GA to Year Level Representatives: Merging of the functions of GA and EB in the Central Board

a.       In view of the impending de-blocking next year, it will be very difficult to constitute the General Assembly. Hence, in place of block representatives, we will be electing two representatives from first year to fourth year with the evening sections entitled to their own two representatives.

b.      The proposed structure will be more efficient and effective since it will mean more people helping out in the activities of the Central Board. At the same time, coordination will be faster since the year level representatives are part of the Central Board. This will balance the need to consult students without sacrificing the timeliness and speed by which consultations must be done.

c.       Since the year level representatives are elected, they will be accountable to the electorate and will be subject to impeachment should they fail to perform their functions, unlike in the present GA where no sanctions could be imposed on block presidents who do not attend meetings.


2.       Composition of the EJT

The EJT, being an independent, non-representative body, will no longer be composed of representatives from the different blocks. The fifteen (15) commissioners will be selected from EJT's roster of volunteers on the basis of character and competence, and will continue to serve as such as long as they remain qualified. To ensure its independence, in no case shall a majority of the members at any given time belong to the same student organization, fraternity or sorority.


3.       The Law Representative

a.       The Law Representative may be a creature of the USC Constitution but we are giving him ex-officio membership in our Central Board so that he will be bound by the decisions of the board when he votes in the USC.

b.      However, we are subjecting him to the impositions of our Constitution and we maintain that violations of the terms of our Constitution will merit disciplinary measures therein provided.

c.       We further maintain that removal of the Law Rep for grounds under our Constitution effectively deprives him  of the right to hold office as Law Rep regardless of what the USC Constitution says. His mandate comes from this College and as such, this college can relinquish such bestowed mandate.


4.       The Independence of the Bar Operations Commission

Under the current Constitution, the elected Vice President becomes Bar Operations Head. Since elections are not held until February, this means that preparations for the Bar will only start late February or early March. There is a need to hasten the process from October to February. Hence, under the proposed Constitution, the LSG President will now be given the power to appoint a Bar Operations Commissioner at the end of the first semester on the basis of a shortlist prepared by the Bar Operations Commissioner with the concurrence of the graduating class. This will:

a.       Ensure that preparations for the Bar Exams will start early

b.      Bar Operations Commissioner will be elected but will come from the volunteers, who are presumed to be familiar with the system and who will earn the post on the basis of competence and merit.

c.       The required concurrence of the graduating class will give them more power as to their choice of Bar Operations Commissioner.


The foregoing is just a summary of the proposed changes to the Constitution. Please take time to read the present and the proposed Constitution attached below.


Why vote?


We cannot overemphasize the importance of ratifying the new Law Students' Constitution. As the very title of the text suggests, this is OUR Constitution, the very document that will govern our student representation in this college. Faced with an almost certain de-blocking next year, we must make sure that our Constitution is flexible enough to meet the exigencies of the times, whether or not this development will indeed push through. (Now whether or not we are in favor of the de-blocking is a different matter altogether. For that, we will have to consolidate our stand in the coming days, even as the Dean claims it is the college administration's prerogative.)


This is also our chance to introduce improvements in the Law Student Government to make it a more relevant, effective, efficient and representative institution, responsive to the needs of its constituents.


With that said, please VOTE in the upcoming plebiscite, MONDAY to WEDNESDAY next week, FEBRUARY 2-4, 2009, at the STUDENT LOUNGE.


Voting schedule is as follows:


February 2, 2009, MONDAY:                       10am to 6pm

February 3, 2009, TUESDAY:                        10am to 6pm

February 4, 2009, WEDNESDAY:                10am to 9pm


Should you have problems with the schedule, please inform us so we can ask the EJT to adjust the time.


Thank you. We look forward to your full participation. Feel free to forward and repost this message.


In the service of the students,


Law Student Government Executive Board 08-09

Michael Jobert I. Navallo
President, Law Student Government
University of the Philippines College of Law
Mobile: +639279704899 / +639233330885
Landline: 410-0137
E-mail: jobertn@gmail.com


what your name means

got this from: http://www.paulsadowski.com/NameData.asp

i don't believe in numerology but i just got curious. funny some are true, but the thing about me liking business just doesn't seem to fit. the business page is the only section in the newspaper i don't read. hence, i think i will have a hard time in commercial law come bar exams. lagot!

You entered: michael jobert iral navallo

There are 24 letters in your name.
Those 24 letters total to 103
There are 10 vowels and 14 consonants in your name.

What your first name means:

ShakespeareanMale'King Henry IV, Part 1' Sir Michael, a friend to the Archbishop of York. 'Henry VI, Part 2' Michael and his company are followers of Jack Cade, a rebel.
HebrewMaleWho is like God? Gift from God. In the Bible, St. Michael was the conqueror of Satan and patron saint of soldiers.
BiblicalMalePoor; humble

Your number is: 4

The characteristics of #4 are: A foundation, order, service, struggle against limits, steady growth.

The expression or destiny for #4:
Order, service, and management are the cornerstones of the number 4 Expression. Your destiny is to express wonderful organization skills with your ever practical, down-to-earth approach. You are the kind of person who is always willing to work those long, hard hours to push a project through to completion. A patience with detail allows you to become expert in fields such as building, engineering, and all forms of craftsmanship. Your abilities to write and teach may lean toward the more technical and detailed. In the arts, music will likely be your choice. Artistic talents may also appear in such fields as horticulture and floral arrangement, as well. Many skilled physicians and especially surgeons have the 4 Expression.

The positive attitudes of the 4 Expression yield responsibility; you are one who no doubt, fulfills obligations, and is highly systematic and orderly. You are serious and sincere, honest and faithful. It is your role to help and you are required to do a good job at everything you undertake.

If there is too much 4 energies present in your makeup, you may express some of the negative attitudes of the number 4. The obligations that you face may tend to create frustration and feelings of limitation or restriction. You may sometimes find yourself nursing negative attitudes in this regard and these can keep you in a rather low mood. Avoid becoming too rigid, stubborn, dogmatic, and fixed in your opinions. You may have a tendency to develop and hold very strong likes and dislikes, and some of these may border on the classification of prejudice. The negative side of 4 often produces dominant and bossy individuals who use disciplinarian to an excess. These tendencies must be avoided. Finally, like nearly all with 4 Expression, you must keep your eye on the big picture and not get overly wrapped up in detail and routine.

Your Soul Urge number is: 8

A Soul Urge number of 8 means:
With an 8 soul urge, you have a natural flair for big business and the challenges imposed by the commercial world. Power, status and success are very important to you. You have strong urges to supervise, organize and lead. Material desires are also very pronounced. You have good executive abilities, and with these, confidence, energy and ambition.

Your mind is analytical and judgment sound; you're a good judge of material values and also human character. Self-controlled, you rarely let emotions cloud judgment. You are somewhat of an organizer at heart, and you like to keep those beneath you organized and on a proper track. This is a personality that wants to lead, not follow. You want to be known for your planning ability and solid judgment.

The negative aspects of the 8 soul urge are the often dominating and exacting attitude. You may have a tendency to be very rigid, sometimes stubborn.

Your Inner Dream number is: 5

An Inner Dream number of 5 means:
You dream of being totally free and unrestrained by responsibility. You see yourself conversing and mingling with the natives in many nations, living for adventure and life experiences. You imagine what you might accomplished.


And Then They Came For Me

The text below was written by a Sri Lankan editor shortly before his assassination in Colombo on January 8 and was published posthumously. Lasantha Wickrematunga, editor of the The Sunday Leader, was an outspoken critic of the Sri Lankan government whose president, incidentally, is his close friend. Inspiring tale about friendship, patriotism and selflessness.

This article strikes me not only because the author knew death was forthcoming, but also because Wickrematunga was a lawyer who chose to be a journalist. He knew he could have lived a far better life had he chosen to practice law but he was brave enough to make the choice.

I read this at a time of recruitment dinners with big firms. I attended one last night; two more are coming. Despite promises of excellent training, big bucks and a bright career ahead, I'm tempted to just run away from all of these, start all over again and do something which I could be passionate about, something I don't consider work because I actually enjoy doing it Crazy decision, especially when graduation is just three months away and getting invited to recruitment dinners is something only law students can dream about.

Reading this only reinforces that state of confusion in my mind, which my blockmates call 'na-jo-jobert.' I've been in this mode for the past four years. Unlike Lasantha however, I'm not brave enough to make the choice. And that's the tragedy of my life.

And then they came for me” by Lasantha Wickrematunga

No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.

I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be The Sunday Leader’s 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty. Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges. For neither group have the risks ever been higher or the stakes lower.

Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not. Friends tell me to revert to the bar, and goodness knows it offers a better and safer livelihood. Others, including political leaders on both sides, have at various times sought to induce me to take to politics, going so far as to offer me ministries of my choice. Diplomats, recognising the risk journalists face in Sri Lanka, have offered me safe passage and the right of residence in their countries. Whatever else I may have been stuck for, I have not been stuck for choice.

But there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.

The Sunday Leader has been a controversial newspaper because we say it like we see it: whether it be a spade, a thief or a murderer, we call it by that name. We do not hide behind euphemism. The investigative articles we print are supported by documentary evidence thanks to the public-spiritedness of citizens who at great risk to themselves pass on this material to us. We have exposed scandal after scandal, and never once in these 15 years has anyone proved us wrong or successfully prosecuted us.

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it.

Every newspaper has its angle, and we do not hide the fact that we have ours. Our commitment is to see Sri Lanka as a transparent, secular, liberal democracy. Think about those words, for they each has profound meaning. Transparent because government must be openly accountable to the people and never abuse their trust. Secular because in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society such as ours, secularism offers the only common ground by which we might all be united. Liberal because we recognise that all human beings are created different, and we need to accept others for what they are and not what we would like them to be. And democratic… well, if you need me to explain why that is important, you’d best stop buying this paper.

The Sunday Leader has never sought safety by unquestioningly articulating the majority view. Let’s face it, that is the way to sell newspapers. On the contrary, as our opinion pieces over the years amply demonstrate, we often voice ideas that many people find distasteful. For example, we have consistently espoused the view that while separatist terrorism must be eradicated, it is more important to address the root causes of terrorism, and urged government to view Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife in the context of history and not through the telescope of terrorism. We have also agitated against state terrorism in the so-called war against terror, and made no secret of our horror that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world routinely to bomb its own citizens. For these views we have been labelled traitors, and if this be treachery, we wear that label proudly.

Many people suspect that The Sunday Leader has a political agenda: it does not. If we appear more critical of the government than of the opposition it is only because we believe that - pray excuse cricketing argot - there is no point in bowling to the fielding side. Remember that for the few years of our existence in which the UNP was in office, we proved to be the biggest thorn in its flesh, exposing excess and corruption wherever it occurred. Indeed, the steady stream of embarrassing exposés we published may well have served to precipitate the downfall of that government.

Neither should our distaste for the war be interpreted to mean that we support the Tigers. The LTTE are among the most ruthless and bloodthirsty organisations ever to have infested the planet. There is no gainsaying that it must be eradicated. But to do so by violating the rights of Tamil citizens, bombing and shooting them mercilessly, is not only wrong but shames the Sinhalese, whose claim to be custodians of the dhamma is forever called into question by this savagery, much of which is unknown to the public because of censorship.

What is more, a military occupation of the country’s north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect. Do not imagine that you can placate them by showering “development” and “reconstruction” on them in the post-war era. The wounds of war will scar them forever, and you will also have an even more bitter and hateful Diaspora to contend with. A problem amenable to a political solution will thus become a festering wound that will yield strife for all eternity. If I seem angry and frustrated, it is only because most of my countrymen - and all of the government - cannot see this writing so plainly on the wall.

It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government’s sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended. In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.

The irony in this is that, unknown to most of the public, Mahinda and I have been friends for more than a quarter century. Indeed, I suspect that I am one of the few people remaining who routinely addresses him by his first name and uses the familiar Sinhala address oya when talking to him. Although I do not attend the meetings he periodically holds for newspaper editors, hardly a month passes when we do not meet, privately or with a few close friends present, late at night at President’s House. There we swap yarns, discuss politics and joke about the good old days. A few remarks to him would therefore be in order here.

Mahinda, when you finally fought your way to the SLFP presidential nomination in 2005, nowhere were you welcomed more warmly than in this column. Indeed, we broke with a decade of tradition by referring to you throughout by your first name. So well known were your commitments to human rights and liberal values that we ushered you in like a breath of fresh air. Then, through an act of folly, you got yourself involved in the Helping Hambantota scandal. It was after a lot of soul-searching that we broke the story, at the same time urging you to return the money. By the time you did so several weeks later, a great blow had been struck to your reputation. It is one you are still trying to live down.

You have told me yourself that you were not greedy for the presidency. You did not have to hanker after it: it fell into your lap. You have told me that your sons are your greatest joy, and that you love spending time with them, leaving your brothers to operate the machinery of state. Now, it is clear to all who will see that that machinery has operated so well that my sons and daughter do not themselves have a father.

In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry. But like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too. For truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death, but dare not call his name. Not just my life, but yours too, depends on it.

Sadly, for all the dreams you had for our country in your younger days, in just three years you have reduced it to rubble. In the name of patriotism you have trampled on human rights, nurtured unbridled corruption and squandered public money like no other President before you. Indeed, your conduct has been like a small child suddenly let loose in a toyshop. That analogy is perhaps inapt because no child could have caused so much blood to be spilled on this land as you have, or trampled on the rights of its citizens as you do. Although you are now so drunk with power that you cannot see it, you will come to regret your sons having so rich an inheritance of blood. It can only bring tragedy. As for me, it is with a clear conscience that I go to meet my Maker. I wish, when your time finally comes, you could do the same. I wish.

As for me, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I walked tall and bowed to no man. And I have not travelled this journey alone. Fellow journalists in other branches of the media walked with me: most of them are now dead, imprisoned without trial or exiled in far-off lands. Others walk in the shadow of death that your Presidency has cast on the freedoms for which you once fought so hard. You will never be allowed to forget that my death took place under your watch. As anguished as I know you will be, I also know that you will have no choice but to protect my killers: you will see to it that the guilty one is never convicted. You have no choice. I feel sorry for you, and Shiranthi will have a long time to spend on her knees when next she goes for Confession for it is not just her owns sins which she must confess, but those of her extended family that keeps you in office.

As for the readers of The Sunday Leader, what can I say but Thank You for supporting our mission. We have espoused unpopular causes, stood up for those too feeble to stand up for themselves, locked horns with the high and mighty so swollen with power that they have forgotten their roots, exposed corruption and the waste of your hard-earned tax rupees, and made sure that whatever the propaganda of the day, you were allowed to hear a contrary view. For this I - and my family - have now paid the price that I have long known I will one day have to pay. I am - and have always been - ready for that. I have done nothing to prevent this outcome: no security, no precautions. I want my murderer to know that I am not a coward like he is, hiding behind human shields while condemning thousands of innocents to death. What am I among so many? It has long been written that my life would be taken, and by whom. All that remains to be written is when.

That The Sunday Leader will continue fighting the good fight, too, is written. For I did not fight this fight alone. Many more of us have to be - and will be - killed before The Leader is laid to rest. I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland. I also hope it will open the eyes of your President to the fact that however many are slaughtered in the name of patriotism, the human spirit will endure and flourish. Not all the Rajapakses combined can kill that.

People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niemöller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niemöller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niemöller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: The Leader is there for you, be you Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, low-caste, homosexual, dissident or disabled. Its staff will fight on, unbowed and unafraid, with the courage to which you have become accustomed. Do not take that commitment for granted. Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried.



In a statement released last week by the student council of the UPD College of Mass Communication (CMC-SC), it was said that:

“Also, these colleges with amendments were asked to show the body the quantitative and qualitative data of the consultations they said to have made. As transparency was requested, they refused to show any data. A representative of the Law Student Government even admitted they did not hold consultations with the students of the said college, citing constraints in schedule. We ask: if these amendments did not come from a consensus from the students, how can democracy be ensured, then.”

We feel that we need to respond to this and clarify the matter as there are insinuations of non-transparency and non-consultation. We do this not for the benefit of the CMC-SC (because we owe it no explanation), but for the benefit of our constituents in the College of Law.

First. There is no single way of conducting a consultation. Given the block system in our college, it has always been customary practice for the LSG EB to conduct its consultations through the General Assembly of Representatives (GA)—a body composed of block presidents—and for the latter to present its concerns to the former, simply because this symbiosis has proven to be most efficient and expedient.

Last December, the LSG conducted its consultation by circulating a primer on the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) and Codified Rules on Student Regent Selection (CRSRS) prepared by the Law Representative, as well as the primer and open letter released by the incumbent Student Regent. The GA representatives were then asked to discuss the matter with their respective blocks and to submit to the EB any proposal that they may have to amend the CRSRS of 2007. None of the blocks were able to submit any proposal, so when we reported to the SR, we specifically indicated that there were no direct proposals from the blocks, but there were proposals coming from the EB itself. There is nothing unusual about this. As an EB, we are authorized under the LSG Constitution to represent the students in all matters affecting student rights and welfare. And as students, we, too, have a right to suggest rules that would eventually govern the selection of our student regent.

It is true that the EB was unable to conduct room-to-room (RTR) discussions, as it had originally planned, because of constraints in time and our individual schedules. But as pointed out above, our standard consultation practice has always been through the GA. Whether or not such will be supplemented with RTR discussions is discretionary. Even so, the LSG Secretary did notify the GA representatives that members of the EB would be willing to discuss the issue/s further in their classes should their blocks request us to do so.

No student council has a monopoly on the best way to consult its constituents. And if our own constituents point out the flaws in the way our consultation was done, we will acknowledge them and consider alternative ways to consult. But it is not for one student council to dismiss the efforts of another simply because of differences in method. Invoking the presumption of regularity is not a tactic to evade transparency; it is a presumption born out of respect for and a belief, in good faith, that each council conducted its consultations as sincerely as it could.

Second. “Consensus” and “majority” are not preconditions to a valid proposal of an amendment to the CRSRS. The CMC-SC asks, “if these amendments did not come from a consensus from the students, how can democracy be ensured, then.” Without even going into why democracy is not synonymous with consensus, we wish to point out that this question proceeds from a false premise: i.e., that an amendment must be proposed by a majority before it can be considered by the LSG, or by the GASC. Nowhere in our history, not even in the CRSRS of 2007, is there such a requirement. Please note that there is a difference between a proposal and its resolution. The former does not require a majority or any number for it to be validly made, but the latter does, which is why we have voting requirements whenever we hold the GASC. Deliberative bodies like Congress, and boards of both public and private corporations, do not require majority of its members to propose a matter before they deliberate upon it.

Third. Assuming without conceding that the amendments we proposed are “invalid” for having been “invalidly” done, there are still valid proposals from other student councils, other students. Including the proposals in the referendum is not equivalent to passing upon its merits, because that is precisely what the students will be deciding for themselves on January 26-29. Our point was simply to subject ALL the proposals, including the CRSRS of 2007, to the students’ vote. Thus, we suggested that the phrasing of the question be: "Which proposal do you think should govern the selection of the next SR?", and that the answers be "Proposal A (CRSRS of 2007), Proposal B (CRSRS of 2007, as amended by Student Council X), Proposal C (CRSRS of 2007, as amended by Student Council Y), Proposal D (CRSRS of 2007, as amended by Student Council Z)..." and so on. There are other ways to present the question, but it is clear that the referendum question, as it is currently worded, is oversimplified.

Obviously, a broader phrasing of the question would not foreclose the possibility of the CRSRS of 2007 being ratified through and through; thus, this should even be seen by its proponents as a chance to be vindicated.

To “unite” and ensure the approval of the CRSRS of 2007 now and to push for amendments later, may sound like a good compromise, but it is unlikely to happen. Because assuming the referendum (with its current phrasing of the question) does proceed and it succeeds, would it not be disrespectful for the GASC to immediately amend a set of rules that has been ratified by majority of the UP students?

We do not see how an expansion of the referendum question can threaten the OSR. The point is to have alternatives presented to the student body so that the Office may be strengthened and be made more credible. If there is anything we all agree on, it is that conducting a referendum is logistically and financially taxing. But since we have resolved to “rise to the challenge”, we must make sure that our undertaking is properly done. Why insist on taking short cuts when we already have the chance to maximize direct student participation?

Clearly, the danger of a failed referendum comes from the narrow and oversimplified phrasing of the question. By limiting the answer to a YES or NO, the issue has been severely slanted to appear as either an affirmation or rejection of the OSR, when the question does not even have to be answerable by a mere yes/no to begin with. A vote of yes/no only amounts to approving/disapproving the CRSRS of 2007, and not the OSR itself, because the law and jurisprudence provide for mechanisms to ensure that the OSR will not be vacant. Thus, it is patently dishonest to claim that if the CRSRS is not approved, we will have no SR, or that we will be at the mercy of a Malacañang appointee (see Referendum FAQs).

All these limiting of choices, the silencing of the minority, remind us of the dictum of an extremely conservative, right-wing leader—that “there is no alternative”.

But there are alternatives, and we call on our SR to allow us some options. There is no better way to ensure the failure of a referendum than by pushing a reasonable electorate up against a wall.

- The Executive Board, UP Law Student Government 2008-2009

15 January 2008