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Winston "Arf-Arf" Arpon
PMA '64

Cecilia Munoz Palma 

For Celing, No Selling Out

In WTW 5 (see 09-02-04 Witful Thinking, Wednesday), we wrote that the prospects of charter change can change, no pun intended.

JPE now open to Cha-cha. This headline appeared in a leading Philippine daily on Thursday, less than 24 hours after WTW was posted to the US – I mean, the "usual suspects," I mean, the usual distribution to PMA-related mailgroups and other selected recipients.

Yes, sir, JPE is none other than the Senate President himself, Juan Ponce Enrile.

Not one to be upstaged, JEE – yes, Joseph Ejercito Estrada – was on tv a few hours later. He said something to the effect that Congress should be sensitive to the wishes of the people; otherwise, he warned, "may malaking gulo."

Yes, Virginia, be wary of those that say Cha-cha is dead in the water. The music keeps playing; the train keeps rolling merrily along.

And remember we have yet to hear from Sir Joe Almonte himself(see WTW 09-02-04).

Today, as we speak, 75 students are in Alfonso, Cavite for the AYLC, Ayala Young Leaders Congress, the 11th offering of the Ayala group of companies.

What better way for selected college juniors – organizers and other participants – of this congress to spend the three days before Valentine's Day!

Maybe, Congress can learn a thing or two from this congress and from its theme this year, "Leading And Serving: Conviction In Action."

If Congress isn't inclined towards leading or serving, it would be a good start if its seemingly endless investigations would at least serve to lead to a conviction of the wrongdoers.

Item: Loren aiming to be RP's 'green president'

Loren Legarda, the item says, was named after Sophia Loren, has been a model, a cover girl, a television broadcaster.

These credentials, added to being the number one vote-getter on the two occasions she ran for Senator, can make anyone, especially other presidentiables, green with envy. But this is not why she desires to be the 'green president.'

She's a keen environmentalist, that's why.

Memo to Loren Legarda: You may wish to reconsider.

In 2000, Ralph Nader ran for US President on a similar platform, in fact, he was the standard bearer of the Green Party.

As you know, he lost miserably; bushwacked by George Bush and gored by Albert Gore.

In defeat, Nader saw red, not green.

The World Bank bars three RP contractors for collusion in bid-rigging for a $33-m road project.

Congress investigates and exonerates the three contractors.

House Speaker Nograles says the House of Representatives is done with its investigation.

Senator Ping Lacson tells Miriam Santiago to investigate some more, especially the link to JMA.

Senator Joker Arroyo insists, "no appearance (by the World Bank), no case."

More plots and sub-plots here than in Desperate Housewives.

Meanwhile, I am desperate for the truth on this contract rigging and payola sharing. Aren't you?

By the way, JMA is Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of GMA. He is the FGMA, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, to PGMA, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Sorry, Vrad, for this extended lesson in presidential cronyism, I mean acronyms. But WTW uninitiated readers outside of the Philippines, if there are any, need to know.

Item: No liberty for the "Alabang Boys" Jorge Joseph, Joseph Tecson and Richard Brodett.

A vindication for PDEA, one would think, I won't be celebrating if I were PDEA chief Santiago.

The 11-page decision simply ruled that the state prosecutors' finding of lack of probable cause could not be considered binding and effective without the final approval of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.

Forget PDEA, forget Marcelino or Santiago; forget the bribery, forget Resado's bank accounts. If or when Gonzalez approves – my gut feel says it's when, not if – the "Alabang Boys" will go scot-free.

As the column of Conrado de Quirot, I mean Quiros, says, there's the rub.

And it's no Vicks Vaporub, either.

"…… in every man's life there will come a moment of truth, a moment when a decision has to be made, when one has to put to a test his conscience and a reason."

Even as I read this profound quote from the brochure handed to me at the registration table, I felt no moment of truth, no moment of decision-making nor test of conscience or reason. No "St. Paul moment," no sudden epiphany, for me.

I was there that evening at the Manila Polo Club, just one among several guests. Beyond the thought of dinner and maybe a sip or two of wine and of course my thanks to my friend for the invitation, what else would be on my mind?

But the more I read and the more I observed as the dinner and the evening wore on, and the more I listened during the program that ensued, the realization hit me: this was no ordinary occasion.

This was more than just the launching of a new Foundation. It was a tribute to the person whose name was behind that Foundation, an extraordinary person – Cecilia Munoz Palma.

I don't think the affair got into the pages – definitely not page 1 – of the papers the morning after. This, despite the presence of, among others, ex-President Joseph and wife Senator Loi Estrada; Chief Justice Puno; Energy Secretary Atienza; Quezon City Mayor Belmonte; ex-Senator Frank and wife Mila Drilon; former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor; Charito Planas.

My friend, one of the 12 trustees of the Cecilia Munoz Palma Foundation and arden, introduced me to the incumbent Chief Justice Reynato Puno. At the time, he was seated by his lonesome at the presidential table (he would be joined later by others including ex-President Estrada and Q.C. Mayor Belmonte).

Only protocol, and perhaps, the fear of being ruled out of order and cited for contempt, and, embarrassing my friend kept me from whipping out the blackberry from my pocket and showing the Chief Justice how he made it to WTW's center-"piece."

What a revelation it would have been to see his reaction upon reading "Puno (ng) Possibilities!" (see WTW 09-01-21).

Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma, Celing to many, was high school valedictorian at St. Scholastica's and the first woman to top the Bar examinations after finishing law at UP where she was the first woman president of the UP Law Council.

Twelve days into Valentine's Day, Guest Speaker Puno spoke about three loves in Celing's life – love of God, love of country and love of fellowman.

There was no "I" in her magnanimous life, except perhaps the label of "Ingrata." Ungrateful to the very person who appointed her and gave her the rare distinction of being the first woman justice of the Supreme Court, eight years before Sandra Day O'Connor shared that distinction in the US Supreme Court.

Celing's was the dissenting vote on the ratification of the amendments to the 1973 Constitution.

It did matter to her that fellow magistrates for whom she professed high respect were in favor, rendering her dissent, well, moot and academic and in the overall result, of little value, if any. But it mattered too that to go along against her personal conviction would be a sell-out.

For Celing, selling out on what she believed in was not in the equation.


"My oath of office," she wrote in her book, The Mirror of My Soul, "is an oath of office to the Constitution, to justice, and to the people and no
t an oath of fealty to the appointing power."

In his closing remarks, son Tadeo Palma shared this reminiscence of events , among several others, in his mom's public life.

Just before her 65th birthday, a presidential decree was issued lowering the retirement age of justices from 70 to 65. Adhering to her mantra, the "rule of law," she complied. She retired.

Soon after her retirement, another PD was issued changing the retirement age from 65 back to 70.

But there was no hint of this, let alone a reference to it, in "My Last Will and Testament," the speech she delivered upon her retirement on November 21, 1978.

To the author of that decree, she expressed in her valedictory neither rancor nor bitterness, but with grace, included him in her "public avowal of gratitude."

"I turn my thoughts," she said, "to President and Mrs. Marcos," noting their absence. Then she went on to acknowledge Marcos "pulling me out as it were" after 14 years in District Court to the Court of Appeals and five years later to the Supreme Court.

It was generous and encouraging of Cavalier Leopoldo "Pol" Aliac '67 to write that WTW "makes Wednesday a day to look forward to."

Never mind that he was not sure for what reason – M & M, 'mirth and merriment' or because it is 'halo-halo."

My taste buds aren't that discriminating. M & M or halo-halo – they're equally sweet. As Erap would say, pare-pareho lang iyan, pare.

As to Pol's suggestion on Witful Thinking MWF, three days of the weekday, well, that would be witful thinking, I mean wishful thinking.

But then again, I am willing to reconsider if Cavalier Mon Farolan's Reveille, Monday segues into a Reveille, Wednesday then Reveille, Friday.

No, I haven't heard from him, my favorite columnist. All remains quiet on the FF, I mean firing front, I mean Farolan Front. I don't have any idea how he feels about how I feel being cheated that Reveille comes out on Mondays only (see WTW 09-01-21).

Yet, I have heard from his yearling, Cavalier Jose Dado '55 who wrote: Keep up the good work writing down your thoughts. They are interesting.

What's the matter with plebes nowadays, Sir Joe? I mean, Joe Dado, not Joe Almonte who, I think, belongs to Ramon Farolan's PMA class of 1956.

Rena Mate, a doctor from Rhode IsIand, wrote that WTW "puts you at  a low risk to develop those age-related changes of the brain."

If this medicalesse is true, then, for me it is:
Witful Thinking, Wednesday
Keeps Alzheimer away
Or even insanity?

For this week, the award of the WTW sworde (star for wordsmithing excellence) goes to Cavalier Pat Duque '65 who sent this note, "After 44 yrs, it's nice to hear fr u again," a note that proves his texting skill, Pinoy-style, remains as good as his memory and his math.

And the word, actually a phrase, is:
Nililisa ang masa.

A phrase ostensibly inspired by the bill banning AFP and PNP retirees from government service that has confused and bothered this column and several readers, including Pat Duque. Lisa Maza, Gabriela Party List representative, was a co-author ( "coup-otor," in Pat's view: a virtual coup de grace cleverly cloaked in the clothing of a legislative bill)

Some are breaking news. This one is heartbreaking news.

After 14 years in Zambales, FedEX flies out to its new home in Guangzhou, China, leaving behind 800 Filipino employees jobless.

They were free to leave Subic Bay Freeport. They are free to come back.

As this is written, Cavalier Chuck Agustin shares this posting from his USNA mailgroup: Then, Secretary of the Navy by the name of Josephus Daniels came along and decreed that Navy ships would be dry.  It remained that way until Admiral Tom Hayward, as CNO, convinced authorities that at official receptions aboard, important guests would not attend if all we had to offer was KoolAid.

This is kool, I mean, cool. And hot, at the same time.

And I drink to that!

@arf-arf '64
wtw 09-06
makati, philippines