19 December 2011

Life Cannot Be Destroyed for Good...

..neither can history be brought entirely to a halt. - Vaclav Havel (1936-2011)

Playwright, warehouseman, political dissident, former President, Vaclav Havel dies at 75.

14 December 2011

The Guilt of Corona...

You already have the information. All the names and dates are inside your head. What you want, what you really need, is a story.

A decade ago, Estrada was impeached and on trial. The Senate holds the constitutional prerogative to try impeachments of senior political office holders, including the president and chief justice. Yet, the Senate was unable to conclude the trial and people took to the streets with the support of former presidents, the business community and others to force the ouster of Estrada.


This came to pass. And the up-and-coming politician, little Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was declared President. This act was not constitutional. Regardless of your feelings towards Erap or the hirap, Arroyo did not ascend to the presidency through constitutional means. This was eventually legitimized by the Supreme Court through the legal fiction that Estrada had resigned. Even in my interest to have Estrada out, I turned a blind eye.

But the seeds of the present cancer were planted at that time. Then, Macapagal-Arroyo nurtured these seeds and eventually was able to remain in power for a decade. In the process, she and her group were able to corrode the democratic, political institutions of our country and politicize and corrupt the judicial institution of our country -- which was desperately and slowly trying to rebuild its credibility after two decades of Marcos.

Then, after probably stealing the 2004 presidential election, she apologized for it and spent the next six years plundering the country and enriching herself and her allies. Having packed the Supreme Court with her allies, she put icing on the cake, by making an unconstitutional midnight appointment of Renato Corona, her former chief of staff, as Chief Justice.

Although he whined, Noy Aquino did not challenge this immediately upon taking office. So, when it came time to begin prosecuting the corruption of Arroyo -- which has been very painfully slow -- suddenly the Supreme Court with the Chief Justice at its head, starts moving mountains (and travel documents) for Ms. Arroyo.

Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

And that is how we have ended up now, with the situation we have. The purging of the Supreme Court by means of impeachment and removal trials is the only democratic and constitutional process by which the President and Congress have to check the power of an illegitimate, partial, biased and corrupt Supreme Court. No matter how uncomfortable it is, we again find ourselves where we were decade ago in a removal trial of an impeached senior office holder. Right where we began this story. There's no certainty — only opportunity.

Today, instead of the people marching, we have judges canceling their calendars and marching to support Corona as though they were political activists, in violation of their ethical duties as judges and judicial officers to avoid politics and even the appearance of political involvement. We can only see the corrosive effect of ten years of Arroyo lawlessness and the corrosive effect it has had on the judiciary and how that corrosion has affected our judges and our country.

It is to Madame Justice that I dedicate this concerto, in honour of the holiday she seems to have taken from these parts, and in recognition of the impostor that stands in her stead.

Fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of the last government remain unknown to you then I would suggest that you allow this to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to support the constitutional process for removing Corona and other justices who have breached their trust to the public as the final arbiters of the law.

13 December 2011

Movie Review: Breakfast with Scot

This movie is in the genre of stable, established gay couple introduces a young tween or adolescent into the mixture and are forced to confront the various defense mechanisms that have made the stability possible. Here's the official summary:
Eric and his lover, Sam, are pushed into becoming temporary parents to an 11-year-old boy with a fondness for gold chains, lace and the color pink while Eric's brother -- the boy's father -- is out of the country. Neither man ever saw himself as a father, but having such an undeniably colorful child around the house has a funny way of changing their minds.
This movie is no exception except that its budget is probably the biggest of any movie made in this gay subgenre that I've seen. So, its a nice date movie. Light hearted and barely scratches the surface of anything too painful or dramatic. Coincidentally, the boy who plays Scot, Noah Bernett, is exactly what I would think Shelley Duvall would look like if she were a 11 year old gay boy, really.

12 December 2011

Hinding hindi ng binabaeng porn-artista si Tagle

Not a European Transvestite Porn Star

Bishop Tagle's installation will be broadcast on the internet. According to the original press release from the Archdiocese of Manila, you should go to tvmaria.com. See original at Google Webcache here.

Oops! tvmaria.com is a porn site for a European transvestite (hence TV) porn star. Apparently, the correct site for Tagle's installation will be tvmaria.org. See the current press release here which may have changed.

08 December 2011

The Curious Case of Mariano del Castillo

I wonder what GMA was thinking

It was reported yesterday that the impeachment complaint against Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo in the House of Representatives is moving forward. The Committee on Justice determined that the use of the phrases and sentences from a foreign law review article without referring, acknowledging or citing to the other article is an impeachable breach of the public trust.

In the War Rape Victims Case, also known as Isabelita Vinuya et al. v. Executive Secretary et al, del Castillo used a variety of phrases from a law review article from the Yale Journal of International Law written by Evan Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent (both law professors). Although Criddle and Fox- Descent argued in their article that victims of rape during war should be entitled to damages/compensation/restitution, del Castillo used their phrasing and theoretical framework for the opposite conclusion.

The part that caught the attention of the victims and the media was that del Castillo did not cite to or refer to the Criddle and Fox-Descent article in his opinion. In the normal academic world, this would be considered plagiarism. However, in the realm of the law, the purpose of court opinions is to provide the reasoning upon which it makes decisions. Most cases that come before courts are not exactly the same as previous cases and some level of analogizing and referencing to similar, previous cases decided is necessary. When the court gives its opinion, that opinion together with the holding in the case, is the law. No one can claim a copyright on the law and a law giver, whether judicial or legislative, is under no obligation legal or customary to cite to someone who elsewhere formulated their opinion or description when it subsequently becomes law. The point of a judge citing another case is to lend credibility to the present opinion under the doctrine of stare decisis. A foreign law review article can lend no such credibility.

I did not read the Supreme Court's decision regarding del Castillo's absolution of plagiarism but I suspect it was founded on similar ideas and principles since these are basic and fundamental understandings of the law. It would highly be appropriate for lower court justices to make full and adequate citations to scholarly works since they are not ultimately the controlling authority and their citation can help support an affirmation of their decision if appealed. But for the high court, no such citation is necessary. The fact that the justices are not subject to the same rules as those they oversee does smack a bit of medieval monarchical thinking regarding a ruling position.

Nevertheless, in our constitutional scheme, it is not a justices' peers on the Court or armchair jurisprudent commentators like your blogger here, but the people's representatives that get to decide ultimately what conduct constitutes a breach of the public trust at the level of an impeachable offense. It is for this reason that I believe the House of Representatives is fully within its powers to impeach del Castillo and send his impeachment to the Senate for trial and removal. If this occurs, then it becomes clear that in the Philippines, the people have decided that correct citation to the works of others is necessary when one uses their previously formulated phrases for "public trust" reasons -- because plagiarism is generally a breach of trust.

So long as del Castillo is afforded due process, that is, notice of the standards upon which he is to be judged and an opportunity to prepare and present his defense, then the decisions of the House and Senate, ought to be final in the matter.

The impeachment mechanism or a similar process ought to be used to determine with finality the legality of Corona's chief justiceship. An opinion by the Supreme Court need not be the final word on the matter. In my opinion, he would not be able to retreat back to his associate justiceship because of the constructive resignation (ala Estrada) in order to act as the de facto chief justice.

07 December 2011

Book Review: The Red Thread, Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality


Bernard Faure is the Kao Professor in Japanese Religion at Columbia University. He published this book over a decade ago as the first part in a two part series, the other book being The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity and Gender.

The first time I read this book I was very young and naive and was mostly confused by it. This is, in part, because unless you have some background in comparative Buddhist Studies and/or a rudimentary knowledge of the various Buddhist spiritual cannons, at some point the extensive use of Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Japanese and Chinese will confuse a reader. It confused me when I read it in 1998.

But I'm glad I chose it again to read. This book has as its mission to survey how Buddhism dealt man to man sex. You see, like the original form of Christianity, the original form of Buddhism was not of this world. Early Christianity and Buddhism both called for a rejection of the family, familial piety, etc.,. The only way to break the bonds of karmic, cyclic existence is to step out of the stream of karma. The easiest way to do this (logically) was to not have children. However, in traditional societies, this is about as abnormal as it gets.

Faure overviews very closely the Vinaya, which are the monastic codes of behavior. You see, while in Christianity, there is one true doctrine and every other school is heretical, schismatic or apostatic, Buddhism is not committed to a unified doctrine. Instead, we distinguish schools primarily by the Vinaya they follow, that is the methods by which they believe one may direct his heart and mind towards enlightenment.

Early Buddhism rejected desire complete as one of the three main causes of cyclic existence. Then came along the great schism in Buddhism between the Southern schools and the Northern schools. I've written a book review about this point in Buddhist and sexuality history elsewhere in this blog. But the book focuses on how Buddhist philosophy was interpreted and understood to reverse what eventually came to be a rejection of the Indian legalism of the older Southern school understanding of sexuality.

Early Buddhism rejected desire. This remains one of the underpinnings of the Southern Buddhist schools. However, the Northern schools (Vietnam, China, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Japan, Korea, Mongolia), Buddhistized the doctrinal rejection of the rejection of desire and said that desire and passion can be used on the path to transcending cyclic existence! It also reincorporated notions of filial piety. The earlier Southern school focus on the individual attaining liberation, the Northern school focused on the individual attaining liberation for the community!

In the written record that Faure reviews, it is in the Northern schools where man to man sexuality explodes. In Japan, it moves to its extreme where Buddhist priests spiritualize and glorify the ritual and institutional sexual abuse and rape of children. This persisted in Japan for over a thousand years and eventually spread into non-religious areas of life (including the samurai and merchant classes). I have written a review of a book about the Tokugawa era homosexual and pederastic traditions in Japan.

Reading this book did make me think more about the extent of institutionalized sexual abuse of young men and boys in Japan over such a long time and how the Buddhist churches in Japan and their association with moral decline (including homosexuality) played such a significant role in the Meiji-era modernization of Japan and its present extreme homophobia.

I was less interested in the Japanese angle on this story as I was about two different facets that the book didn't delve too deeply into. Monastic sexual or non-sexual experience in other Northern schools monasteries (like Tibet and China) and in the other Northern schools, what their advice was to householders (the Buddhist term for lay practitioners). Since the Northern schools changed the nature of the householder and its relationship to liberation (householders could be a valid path toward liberation in the Northern schools, whereas in the Southern schools, householders are neutral since their alms offerings and donations to monasteries is at best, a karma neutralizing activity), the advice of Buddhist monks and abbots takes on a new significance which isn't well explored.

One of the overall themes of the book, which is important, is that various forms of homosexuality flourished, in part, because of the patriarchical and misogynistic approaches to gender adopted by the early Buddhist community -- and part of the ambivalence the Buddha demonstrated on the question of gender.

The version I read was a 324 page paperback published by Princeton University Press (October 26, 1998), ISBN-13: 978-0691059976. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was used at abebooks.com.

06 December 2011

Movie Review: Let's Go To Prison

When I put this movie in the queue to watch, I didn't think much of it except that it was likely to be another gay comedy. I had to keep asking myself where the "gay & lesbian" part of the movie was. Here is the summary:
John Lyshitski gets his chance for sweet revenge when Nelson Biederman, the son of the judge who sent Lyshitski to jail, is wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn't commit and sentenced to time in the slammer. The scheming Lyshitski deliberately gets tossed back in the clink, where he does everything in his power to ensure that his new cellmate -- Biederman -- experiences all the wonders of prison life.
I had assumed that this would be a film about gay sex in prison, but actually, that's just something that you get teased with. I'm still trying to figure out the moral of the story here or non-moral, that the case may be. Perhaps its that love prevails over the power drive? It's light and makes fun of the American criminal justice system.

05 December 2011

Book Review: Colonizing Hawaii

Sally Engle Merry is a professor of Anthropology at New York University. She wrote this book over a decade ago regarding how the cultural power of law transformed native Hawaiian understandings of sexuality and gender.

I can't tell you how many books I've read in my life where there are claims that colonialism remakes gender and sexuality in its image upon the bodies of the natives. Ngugi wo Thiongo's famous quote from Decolonizing the Mind, for example, states: "the night of the sword and the bullet were followed by the morning of the chalk and blackboard."

It's something that is so obvious. Yet, it is an area that is woefully understudied and under analyzed. I have reviewed a few of books that in various ways scratch the surface. Merry, however, goes right to the heart of it. She goes through meticulously how the cultural significance of the law and religion were used, in a series of historical accidents almost, by those in power that created the conditions upon which the law courts of the Hawaiian kingdom became the ultimate site where native Hawaiians would end up if they could not conform to the colonial understandings of sexuality and gender.

When the law courts weren't forcing immigrant laborers back into their slave-like conditions, they were convicting native Hawaiians on adultery prosecutions. Through this process, sexuality and gender were regulated until the new rules of gender and sexuality and privacy and concealment and shame were firmly in place. Then, the adultery prosecutions disappeared. There is also an extended look at how a patriarchal American system of law dealt with spousal violence and the role of women in the ideal colonized family.

One of the benefits of Merry's work is that both the colonizer and the colonized in Hawai'i were adamant and diligent writers documenting anything and everything. In the Philippines, however, we have primarily the Spanish and mestizo elite who wrote and as Neil Garcia and others have noted, the written record is woefully inadequate which would make Merry's method significantly more difficult for sexuality studies in the Philippines. Filomeno Aguilar Hr was able to use scant written record to construct the colonization of Negros in the late 19th and early 20th century -- but the discussion on cockfighting and spirituality can hardly be considered a meaningful inquiry into gender and sexuality.

The version I read was a 364 page paperback published by Princeton University Press (December 21, 1999), ISBN-13: 978-0691009322. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was used at amazon.com.

04 December 2011

Movie Review: Strapped


I was not expecting much from this movie. Strapped idiomatically refers to several things: not having money, having a gun, or having a large cock. The summary was provided as follows:
A handsome young hustler moves almost effortlessly through the world, modifying his persona to fit the needs of each client, even though it leaves him with little self-knowledge. That changes during one night of unusual encounters. After trysting with a shy Russian, the young man tries to leave the apartment building but is stymied by its maze-like structure and meets a string of quirky inhabitants who teach him about himself.
But was I totally surprised! This was definitely a thinking movie.

The encounter with the Russian was so-so but when he leaves and begins the labyrinth journey to the end. There is the one apartment scene where I feel like if I had dropped acid, I would have been at one of the coffeebabies inuman parties in the land of Oz. There were also a few gay Ernest Hemingway types characters in my life (although I never slept with any of them). There were the crazy bi-married father/silahis types.

And then, of course, the last apartment he encounters presented me with the two primary fragments of my own adolescent self: the tortured lonely poet romantic who has spiritualized intimacy to an ascetic non-sexual extreme and the hustler who has dismissed intimacy to a hedonistic sexual extreme.

But what comes of such an encounter? I'll save the ending for you to watch. Maybe you will feel sad? Maybe you will be happy? But this is definitely a date/cuddle-up-with-partner movie.

01 December 2011

Manila Pride March

(from the 2009 Pride March)

December 3, 2011

Pride March

Meeting Place: Remedios Circle, Malate, Manila

Registration: 1:00pm - 4:00pm

Parade: 4:15pm

Program: 5:00pm-8:00pm, Orosa Nakpil



Task Force Pride, a non-profit network of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) groups will organize the 17th Annual Pride March in Manila. The aim of the march is to gather different LGBT groups, allies and individuals in solidarity, as well as provide positive visibility to the community.

This year's theme, "Pride of the Orient", recalls the community's achievements with regard to advancing LGBT human rights, such as... organizing the first pride march in Asia in 1994 and the formation of Ladlad party list, the only LGBT-oriented party list in the world, and extensive HIV/AIDS Awareness campaigns nationwide .

"Pride of the Orient" calls on LGBT Filipinos to reclaim these milestones and look forward to more victories they've yet to achieve.

For Organizations, please confirm in this link:
http://taskforcepride.blogspot.com/2011/11/2011-confirmation-form-organizations.html

For Individuals, please confirm in this link:
http://taskforcepride.blogspot.com/2011/11/2011-confirmation-form-individuals.html

(If you have difficulties with the links provided, please reply to this email with your Name, Organization's Name, and Contact Number.)

Please check the TFP page regularly for updates on the program line-up and the venue.

For more information you can visit this FB Event Page:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=241089652610923

Visit the official website:
http://www.taskforcepride.blogspot.com/

email us at:
taskforcepride@gmail.com


or SMS us at 09163089903 (Globe), 09333049795 (Sun)

Thanks, and see you all on December 3, 2011 at the Pride March!

30 November 2011

Jon M. Van Dyke, 68

Jon M. Van Dyke, 68, an internationally respected human rights attorney and law professor, who sued the Marcoses in US courts on behalf of Filipino human rights abuse victims during martial law and through the end of Marcos' regime, died in his sleep while traveling in Australia. After obtaining one of the largest judgments ever in a class action law suit in US history for martial law victims, Van Dyke and his widow Sherry Broder, spent the following 20 years searching for hidden assets of the Marcos family to pay the victims and fighting the Philippine government which would make claims to the found monies whenever assets were found. Van Dyke was also a learned scholar on the law of the seas.

29 November 2011

I Still Love You Piolo


Dear PJ,

Since everyone is coming out with their truth, I will offer mine. You made it late onto my crush radar. Actually, despite playing Jules in Dekada 70 and finding myself attracted to the character in your performance, I barely batted an eyelash for you there and even less so elsewhere. Marvin Agustin was the main crush of my late adolescence and twenties and I never understood why you had such a fan base. (I recall one discussion with my lola, one of your early and staunch fans, but I still couldn't understand.)

However, things started to change though when I saw Dreamboy. Then Sa Piling Mo and Walang Kapalit. There was something in the performance of betrayal, unrequited love and bucking social norms that seemed so real in your theatrical expression. I became captivated. Then, I lived through Lobo and the tragedy and pain of Noah Ortega of not being able to understand clearly friend from friend, light from light, true love from true love -- clouded by the betrayal of those closest to him.

I found the whole sex video scandal with that guy that looked like you to be funny. At first I was a little unsettled by the Lolit Solis fiasco. I thought your handlers were pushing the envelope too far. But then as it played out, it was a little bit funny and so I saw it as it was comedy. (However, I marginally remained concerned for the potential of leveraging too much risk and remaining unconscious of the part of you that no longer wishes to be bound to your tightly manicured persona.)

Then I happened upon a picture of you with Iñigo, your son -- long after it had been taken. Suddenly, these feelings of mine for you came into sharp focus. This photograph of you with Iñigo was not taken by your handlers at ABS-CBN but instead showed a side of you most of us never get to see. All was revealed. The painful truth that sits like the purloined letter in the minister's study was there with the deep and genuine love for your son.

Your appeal is in part because of the beauty and grace you put on such tremendous suffering over an incredible inner conflict. Perhaps now is the time to transcend the inner conflict and emerge as a new consciousness that is able to integrate the two seemingly opposing points of view. Or perhaps, it is not the time and a shadowy figure like a flash of light will enter the room, take the lamp, throw it into the river and jump off the azotea into the darkness. What will be your real legacy to Iñigo?

Whatever you decide, I will support it. Because, I understand you, PJ.

27 November 2011

Movie Review: A Very British Gangster

You may be wondering what a documentary about a British mafia type is doing in a movie review on my blog. I'll get to that momentarily.

The documentary is about Dominic Noonan who is a well-known ethnically Irish criminal gangster in Manchester, England. He allows the filmmaker total access to how he lives his daily life. He and the police are constantly playing cat and mouse. Also, which is strange and unusual, he acts as a neighborhood mediator and judge. There is one scene where we watch how he mediates a problem that the police are unable to resolve, makes a decision on the case and then moves on ot the next thing. It was precisely what all the books and movies about New York gangsters hinted at. That gangsters acted like para-governments, para-militias, para-law-enforcement, para-social work department.

In any event, Dominic constantly had an entourage of young men around him -- in addition to his young son and nephew. Then the shocker comes. The filmmaker asks him if he has a touch of lavender in him. I wondered if that was some kind of expression for something in England. Dominic clarified. He's 100% gay. Yes, he had a kid. But he's totally gay. So, the documentary is a documentary about a notorious GAY gangster. Apparently, he's not the first British gay gangster. Another well known gay British gangster was Ronnie Kray.

I wished that there had been more focus on that part of his personal life. Has he a partner? Does he sleep with his young men who follow him around? Does he sleep with hustlers? What does his love life look like?

It's an otherwise interesting look into criminality in Manchester, Britain among ethnic Irish working class gangsters -- who are gay.

25 November 2011

Movie Review: King and the Clown 왕의 남자

I saw this movie about 5 years ago just after it was shown in Taiwan from a pirated copy of a theatrical release. The most evil of evil ways to watch a film. But it did not appear on DVD for many more years and had I waited, I would have never have seen it. So I don't feel so bad.

This movie follows the tragic gay theme of Korean movies. Please review my review of the touching Bungee Jump of their Own.

This movie revolves around this character, androgynous lady-boy, Gong-gil, who along with Jang-san, are clowns. That is they go from village to village pantomiming and acting in comedic skits making fun at society. One day they were doing a skit mocking the king and were promptly arrested by the military. In Korea of the 1500s, there was a crazy king named King Yeonsan. And that's who they were mocking.

In jail, Jang-san is able to persuade someone to let them perform for the King. If they make him laugh, they can be pardoned. If they don't, they can be executed. They are so nervous in their performance that they aren't funny but shortly before being executed, they are able to execute one last skit which makes the King laugh. Of course, it also happens that the King has a major crush on Gong-gil (played by Lee Jun-ki).

Lee Jun-ki when he's not in drag

Well, I won't repeat the whole story or the ending, but I can suggest that its in the same ending-genre as Bungee Jump of their Own. And it's a true love story with all the epic tragedy -- there are tyrants, crazies, blinding, scheming concubines, etc.,. In some ways, its like the 2000 version of Chunhyangdyun minus the pansori storyteller. I have not watched this movie recently but someone mentioned that they were looking for a copy and it reminded me that I ought to write a review. This is totally a date/cuddle-up-and-watch movie. Hopefully you can find it and watch it.

24 November 2011

Book Review: Buddhism, Sexuality and Gender

José I. Cabezón is the XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Chair in Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at University of California Santa Barbara. He was formerly Associate Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Iliff School of Theology. He edited this book about twenty years ago.

Although politics and religion are always deeply intertwined, for Buddhism, there has never been a central figure or a group of central figures. The development of Buddhism has been much more fragmented and rhizomatic. It is true that there are a few philosophically consistent groupings: the Theravada, the Mahayana, the Vajrayana and the Pureland sects. However, about every variable you could consider in terms of variation in schools, varies so widely within and among the four I just mentioned that the designation may be considered just geographic by another name.

Okay, I remember reading this book as a teenager and being confused. And so I don't know that I would recommend reading this whole book unless you have some vague background in Buddhist philosophy, history or similar because sometimes it gets technical and can be confusing. There are several important themes which any given reader will likely not be interested in. For a general reader wanting to know more about "Buddhism, Sexuality and Gender" I'd pick just a few chapters.

First, the chapter "Attitudes toward Women and the Feminine in Early Buddhism" by Alan Spoonberg is a concise treatment of how the textual ambiguity in the Buddha's pronouncements regarding gender equality (there is very little) eventually allowed patriarchy to slip back into the religious community and tragically, today, only in Chinese Buddhist religious communities are their fully ordained nuns and nuns from other sects who go to China, Hongkong or Taiwan for full ordination are looked at suspiciously and derisively, at best, and as apostates, at worst. (This is one area where the monastic hierarchy in many Buddhist communities really could work on improvement.)

Second, the chapter "The Gender Symbolism of Kuan-yin Boddhisattva" by Barbara Reed was also a concise explanation for how one of the few well known Buddhist icons in the world (the other being the historical Buddha and the other Amida Buddha) went from being a boyish young man to a woman. This bodhisattva is Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion is also known as Kuan-yi, Kannon, 観音, Quán Thế Âm, Chenrezig, 관세음보살, and Жанрайсиг. HH XIV Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the bodhisattva/buddha. Avalokiteshvara is Buddhism's first transgender Buddha, and a very popular one. This chapter gives a very concise explanation of the how and why.

Third, the chapter "Kukai and the Tradition of Male Love in Japanese Buddhism" by Paul Gordon Schalow. I find the present normative homophobia of Japanese and diasporic Japanese communities to be so curious. This is true, especially, because Japan has such a long, rich and proud historical tradition of gay sex. Of course, for those really interested in this topic, there is the book Male Colours. In any event, the chapter gets to the point. Just consider these two Japanese gay sex poems:

White snow on a mountain peak
turns to pure water on the rocks
and finally flows down.

I gaze up at the distant top of a cedar tree;
the wind blows strong,
and even the cedar bends.

The version I read was a 264 page paperback published by SUNY Press (December 13, 1991), ISBN-13: 978-0791407585. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was used at abebooks.com.

22 November 2011

Is the COMELEC/DOJ panel constitutional?


GMA's attorneys have argued in the press that the COMELEC/DOJ panel is not constitutional because COMELEC must be independent according to the constitution. I thought I would examine this issue and develop an opinion before the Supreme Court ruled. I have not read GMA's briefs or motions nor have I read the government's position. Instead, I am answering the question of whether the COMELEC/DOJ panel is constitutional.

I

The original law, Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, provided at Section 265:

Section 265. Prosecution. - The Commission shall, through its duly authorized legal officers, have the exclusive power to conduct preliminary investigation of all election offenses punishable under this Code, and to prosecute the same. The Commission may avail of the assistance of other prosecuting arms of the government: Provided, however, That in the event that the Commission fails to act on any complaint within four months from his filing, the complainant may file the complaint with the office of the fiscal or with the Ministry of Justice for proper investigation and prosecution, if warranted.

This provision was subsequently amended by Republic Act No. 9369 to read as follows:

"SEC. 265. Prosecution. - The Commission shall, through its duly authorized legal officers, have the power, concurrent with the other prosecuting arms of the government, to conduct preliminary investigation of all election offenses punishable under this Code, and prosecute the same."

It is on this basis that the government established the so-called "joint panel" to investigate the election sabotage case of GMA. Let us next look at the requirements of COMELEC in the constitution:

Art. IX, Sec 1 of the 1987 Constitution states: "The Constitutional Commissions, which shall be independent, are the ... Commission on Elections[.]" What does that independence mean?

If read in relationship to the other common provisions of the Constitutional Commissions, independence includes:

Commissioners may not hold any other office, manage or control any business or practice any profession. (Section 2, Art IX-A) The salary of the Commissioners cannot be decreased during a commissioner's term of office. (Section 3, Art IX-A) Commissions have the sole and exclusive responsibility for the management of their offices. (Section 4, Art IX-A) Commissions enjoy fiscal autonomy (Section 5, Art IX-A) Commissions have the authority to establish its rules of practice (Section 6, Art IX-A)

It does not appear that working together on a preliminary investigation violates any of the above. Further, COMELEC voted under its ordinary procedure without any member of the Department of Justice to proceed to file and prosecute the case.

The original law BP 881 was passed well before the 1987 Constitution. The 1987 Constitution included under Section 2(6), Art IX-C, the constitutional power of COMELEC to prosecute election crimes, but it did not grant that power to COMELEC to the exclusion of the executive and it did not have the effect of repealing Section 265, BP 881. The original law gave COMELEC exclusive preliminary investigatory jurisdiction for 4 months. The amended law changed the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute election crimes concurrently to COMELEC and the Executive Branch, which is consistent with the constitution.


II

Finally, GMA signed R.A. No. 9369 into law in 2007. She ought to be legally estopped from taking the position that it is now unconstitutional. Legal estoppel partakes of the positive rules of judicial procedure based on manifest justice and to a greater or lesser degree, on considerations of orderliness, regularity and expedition of litigation. In other words, a party must not be permitted to maintain inconsistent positions or to take a position in regard to a matter which is directly contrary to or inconsistent with one previously assumed by him, at least where he had, or was chargeable with, full knowledge of the facts, and another will be prejudiced by this action.

If GMA were permitted to maintain that a law that she signed into law in 2007 is unconstitutional, she would undermine the very purpose of the office of the President and promote manifest injustice. Under Sec 27(1), Art VI provides the President can veto a bill and return it to Congress. GMA did not do that. If the bill became law over her veto, she could have filed a complaint for declaratory relief seeking to have the law deemed unconstitutional under Rule 63. She did not. Instead, two election cycles have passed since she signed the bill into law and now challenges it when it is being used to prosecute her criminal misconduct during the first of those two elections.

If she admits that it was unconstitutional and she abrogated her duties to veto and subsequently challenge it in court, then she would have to admit that she violated her duty as a public officer. Section 1, Art XI states: "Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives."

III

For these reasons, Section 265 of B.P. Blg 881 as amended by R.A. No. 9369 which permits the COMELEC to conduct preliminary investigations in cooperation with executive departments, with concurrent powers to investigate and prosecute electoral crimes, does not offend the constitution. The court should make this ruling for the public good as an exception to the prudential doctrine otherwise that GMA is legally estopped from raising the question of R.A. No. 9369's constitutionality.

IV (Update)

I have since learned, by the Supreme Court denying the issuance of the TROs, that GMA is not raising the issue of unconstitutionality but instead her husband and Abalos. Since Mike Arroyo was not subject to the filing of the complaint for election sabotage, his petition should be dismissed since he no longer has standing to challenge the constitutionality of the COMELEC/DOJ joint investigation. What is standing?

"Standing is a special concern in constitutional law because in some cases suits are brought not by parties who have been personally injured by the operation of law or by official action taken, but by concerned citizens, taxpayers or voters who actually sue in the public interest. Hence the question in standing is whether such parties have ‘alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions." Anti-Graft League of the Philippines v. Romero, G.R. No. 97787. August 1, 1996, citing Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962).

Because it has been four years and two elections since the passage of Republic Act No. 9369 and many years since the passage of B.P. Blg. 881 and the 1987 Constitution that if Mike Arroyo had standing as a taxpayer or voter to challenge the law, he would be barred by the doctrine of laches. That is the doctrine that a claimant may not sit on his rights. One of the reasons for this doctrine is to prevent people from gambling with public resources and when dissatisfied with the results of public processes, challenge some government act that could have been challenged earlier saving the public from committing its resources to the challenged act.

Then the question is whether the petition remaining of Abalos is properly before the Supreme Court? I say no.

"Plainly, the Constitution contemplates that the inferior courts should have jurisdiction in cases involving constitutionality of any treaty or law, for it speaks of appellate review of final judgments of inferior courts in cases where such constitutionality happens to be in issue." J. M. Tuason & Co. v. Court of Appeals (3 SCRA 696)

To entertain the merits of a petition like Abalos' in the Supreme Court would signal to those wealthy individuals under investigation by prosecutors to make sure to file petitions with the Supreme Court first before criminal charges are filed to avoid having to be subjected to the ordinary course of justice.

For this reason, I would remand the surviving petitions to the Pasay Regional Trial Court for proper disposition in relationship to the actual controversy at issue.

19 November 2011

An Idiot's Guide to How GMA was Arrested


October 1, 2011
GMA Dr. Julia Gopez-Cervantes issued a medical certificate saying GMA has "metabolic bone disease and osteoporosis due to hypoparathyroidism with electrolyte imbalance and Vitamin D deficiency. Cervantes further stated that "barring any complications, [GMA] should be fully recovered from her spine surgery in six to eight months. Her metabolic bone disease needs lifetime maintenance treatment."

October 19, 2011
The House of Representatives issued an amended travel authority for GMA for the period October 22-December 5 to the US and Germany and to include Singapore, Spain and Italy, to seek medical consultations with specialists and also to go to two NGO type conferences.

October 20, 2011
GMA filled a written request before the DOJ for the issuance of an allow-departure order (ADO)

October 21, 2011
Arroyo submitted an affidavit listed down only three destinations – Singapore, Germany and Austria.

October 24, 2011
Arroyo again filled a written request before the DOJ for the issuance of ADO.

October 27, 2011
Another watchlist order was issued against the former president, this time, based on two electoral sabotage complaints against her.

October 28, 2011
DOH Sec. Ona visited GMA at her Quezon City resident to determine whether her condition was life threatneing and whether her health will deteriorate if she is not permitted to go abroad. Ona later reported to DOJ that "Mrs. Arroyo is recuperating reasonably well".

November 2, 2011
GMA submits a detailed itinerary to DOJ showing that she intends to seek medical consultation in Singapore (October 24, 2011, October 31, 2011 and November 8, 2011), Germany (November 17, 2011) and Spain (November 14, 2011)

November 8, 2011
The Arroyo camp petitions the Supreme Court to nullify the watchlist order against them and DOJ Circular No. 41 which was promulgated by Arroyo's administration as unconstitutional.

November 8, 2011
DOJ denied the request of Arroyo for an allow-departure order (ADO)

November 15, 2011
The Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the implementation of the department circular no. 41 and the watchlist orders, voting 8-5, without giving the government a chance to argue its side. GMA submitted affidavits claiming she had to go abroad because of an medical emergency while also submitting affidavits by her physicians and surgeons saying that barring any unforeseen circumstances, Arroyo should be fully recovered in 6 months. Read Justice Sereno's excellent dissent.

The TRO includes three conditions: No. 1, they must post a PHP 2M bond; No. 2, they must appoint someone to accept legal process for them; and No. 3, they must register with the consulates of the Republic when abroad. The Supreme Court orders the cashier's office to remain open for an additional hour. GMA is able to post the PHP 2M bond. GMA also submits a power of attorney which is defective for purposes of Condition No. 2. However, the Clerk of Court is rushed to certify the condition is met.

Later that night, GMA arrives at NAIA in an ambulance with her neckbrace and a surgical mask with tickets for every flight leaving the country. Immigration officials bar GMA from leaving the country under order of Secretary de Lima. Arroyo then goes to St. Luke's.

November 16, 2011
The former president postponed her planned trip today citing fluctuating blood pressure. It is not known whether she decided not to take her blood pressure medication on this day to create new medical emergencies.

November 17, 2011
Arroyo petitioned the Supreme Court to order the DOJ and BI to allow her to leave the country. GMA again postponed her trip.

November 18, 2011
After failing to receive counter-affidavits from GMA, COMELEC files charges of election sabotage in the Pasay Regional Trial Court. COMELEC requests a hold order for travel.

The Supreme Court meets en banc and re-affirms the TRO issuance. However, they vote and agree that the Condition No. 2 has not been met and the TRO is not effective. The Court also orders deLima to show cause why she should not be held in contempt of court. SC Spokesperson Midas Marquez informs the press that the TRO is effective. But in a subsequently published opinion of Justice Sereno, is admonished for misinforming the public. Read Justice Sereno's opinion here.

The COMELEC case is raffled and the judge issues an arrest warrant for the individuals charged, including GMA. GMA is subsequently arrested at St. Luke's by PNP and put under hospital arrest with armed guards.

16 November 2011

Arroyo et al v. the People

GMA drums up support among supporters
as she attempts to flee the country in neckbrace, wheelchair and surgical mask


As many may be familiar with now, GMA won a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court which, in effect, allows her to leave the country without any obstacle. However, this order has apparently not been served on the DOJ or the Solicitor General and so the Bureau of Immigration and the Civil Aviation Authority did not allow GMA and her husband to leave the country last night, amid much fan fare.

I
The order does not reach the merits of GMA's claim that she has a constitutional right to travel in realms beyond the reach of our government. Rather, a TRO is issued if there is imminent irreparable harm by maintaining the status quo until a decision on the merits can be rendered. In this case, however, the court provided no explanation or recitation of facts that would lead them to conclude that they were facing imminent irreparable harm. There are three words there, each with legal significance. First, there must be harm. Second, it must be irreparable. That means, that if the harm were to occur, it could not be adequately compensated for by a monetary award or some other relief at the end of the case. Third, it must be imminent. It is not sufficient to say that sometime in the undefined future, there will occur irreparable harm. That must occur at this moment.

It is difficult to say that GMA will face irreparable harm because, first, the Court has not been given the opportunity to weigh the expert medical evidence for and against GMA's claimed condition. Second, the government has offered to pay at its expense the travel costs for GMA's physicians of choice to come to the Philippines to conduct tests, evaluations and medical procedures. You see, this offer itself chips away at both the imminent requirement and irreparable requirement.

I have read elsewhere from defenders of GMA and Corona that is was a moment for the rule of law and the Supreme Court has upheld the fundamentals of separate branches of government, etc., etc.,. But I would like to point to a decision rendered by the Supreme Court just a few months ago quashing a TRO issued against GMA by a lower trial court for failing to meet the standards of preliminary injunctive relief.

First, please review the Supreme Court order on Raissa Robles blog. Next, please consider G.R. No. 177130 (2011), Ermita v. Aldecoa-Delorino. In that case, petrochemical companies sued GMA for a 2006 executive order implementing tariff reductions on plastic imports and received a preliminary injunction by the lower court, by Judge Aldecoa-Delorino. GMA appealed to the Supreme Court the issuance of the preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court (the same GMA 8 voting in favor) wrote:

It is well to emphasize that the grant or denial of a writ of preliminary injunction in a pending case rests on the sound discretion of the court taking cognizance thereof. In the present case, however, where it is the Government which is being enjoined from implementing an issuance which enjoys the presumption of validity, such discretion must be exercised with utmost caution. Executive Secretary v. Court of Appeals, enlightens:

In Social Security Commission v. Judge Bayona, we ruled that a law is presumed constitutional until otherwise declared by judicial interpretation. The suspension of the operation of the law is a matter of extreme delicacy because it is an interference with the official acts not only of the duly elected representatives of the people but also of the highest magistrate of the land.

And following jurisprudence, these requisites must be proved before a writ of preliminary injunction, be it mandatory or prohibitory, will issue:

(1) The applicant must have a clear and unmistakable right to be protected, that is a right in esse;

(2) There is a material and substantial invasion of such right;

(3) There is an urgent need for the writ to prevent irreparable injury to the applicant; and

(4) No other ordinary, speedy, and adequate remedy exists to prevent the infliction of irreparable injury. (emphasis supplied)a1a

It is thus ineluctable that for it to be entitled to the writ, the [Plaintiff] must show that it has a clear and unmistakable right that is violated and that there is an urgent necessity for its issuance. That [Plaintiff] had cause of action and the standing to interpose the action for prohibition did not ipso facto call for the grant of injunctive relief in its favor without it proving its entitlement thereto.

Transfield Philippines, Inc. v. Luzon Hydro Corporation, illuminates on the right of a party to injunctive relief:

Before a writ of preliminary injunction may be issued, there must be a clear showing by the complaint that there exists a right to be protected and that the acts against which the writ is to be directed are violative of the said right. It must be shown that the invasion of the right sought to be protected is material and substantial, that the right of complainant is clear and unmistakable and that there is an urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage. Moreover, an injunctive remedy may only be resorted to when there is a pressing necessity to avoid injurious consequences which cannot be remedied under any standard compensation.

The Supreme Court did not go through any of this analysis. Instead, it did the apparent opposite of what it reversed the lower court for doing and has given GMA and her family a free pass. And, in this case, it is not clear why GMA can't wait a week or two before leaving the country to allow oral arguments to be had. What is the rush?

Also the remedy seems so extreme. The language of the restraining order seems to enjoin the power of the DOJ and Bureau to stop ANYONE from leaving the country. So, the response to the claim that GMA will suffer irreparable harm by not being allowed to leave the country is to allow everyone and anyone to leave the country.

II

While in modern times, we tend to see the courts as powerful institutions, judicial power is founded on credibility and reputation. Courts do not have armies. Courts do not raise revenue and maintain treasuries. If the court ordered something and no one listened to them, the court would have no way to enforce its decision. Instead, they simply have the power of persuasion and influence. There is a number of ways courts' build their credibility and reputation. One is by consistency and following their own precedent.

As we see, in this instance, however, the only thing consistent about the prior law on preliminary injunctions and the present case, is that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can do whatever she wants. The previous cases on preliminary injunction by substantially the same Supreme Court have a long and stable history regarding the powers of the court and the standards by which they will issue injunctive relief. This present case does not do that at all.

And this is the danger. At the moment the DOJ is not following the order because they have not been legally notified of the order. That will work or the moment. However, when the DOJ and solicitor general are served, then they will be faced with a different set of issues.

Do they ignore the order of the Supreme Court? That would trigger a constitutional crisis of epic proportions -- much bigger than the mindless interference of the Supreme Court in the impeachment of Merceditas Gutierrez. That is one possible solutions. But there are others.

Ultimately, this decision which fails in every respect to comport with the Supreme Court's own prior law and utterly fails to provide any reasons for its decision invites the government and the public to ignore its order. Corona need lecture no one but himself and his peers regarding the lack of respect for the Supreme Court.

III

First, the Department of Justice and Bureau of Immigration could revoke GMA and Mike Arroyo's passports and require them to follow the process to obtain new passports. By my calculation, this would delay any departure by at least a month. They could also require that the DFA not allow any part of the process to be expedited.

Second, the DOJ and Bureau could issue new circulars and new watchlist orders on GMA and Mike Arroyo. The present preliminary injunction only relates to Circular and watchlist orders.

Third, the Department of Tourism could refuse to accept payment for the travel tax and allow her to leave and require under Section 5 of P.D. No. 1183 that GMA establish her capacity to pay the government all of its costs in having her extradicted if she refuses to return, from countries that do not have extradition treaties.

There are also many regulations and rules that provide criminal and civil penalties for not being obeyed. If the DOJ needs more time to investigate GMA before charging her with a crime, they might as well charge her with these many small bailable offenses. While it is true that she is allowed bail, the process to be bailed takes some time. American gangster boss Al Capone went to prison for failing to file tax returns on his illegal earnings.

IV

Aquino's administration is under every duty and obligation to halt GMA's continued destruction of all the institutions of our government. This includes ignoring the Supreme Court in its utter lawless decisions.

10 November 2011

Arroyo and the Writ of Ne Exeat

The ontology of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

In both the common law and civil law tradition, the sovereign's power to prevent its subjects from departing the realm has been expressed as the power of "ne exeat" or the writ of ne exeat. Ne exeat means "that he not depart." In the long history of "ne exeat", it has been used to prevent subjects from leaving a kingdom without a license from the king, to prevent debtors from leaving the realm without repaying their debts, and to prevent a husband or wife from removing property from the jurisdiction of a court. Most recently, it has been discussed in relationship of the power of a parent to prevent another parent from removing a child from one country to another.

Beames wrote: "this Writ is now mostly used where a suit is commenced in the Court against a Man, and he designing to defeat the other of his just demand, or to avoid the Justice and Equity of this Court, is about to go beyond Sea, or, however, that the Duty will be endangered if he goes."

Nevertheless, the power of ne exeat is something that surely subsists among the recognized powers of the sovereign. What would be the meaning or significance of national boundaries if the price of disobedience is simply a one way airplane or ship fare to another country? The question is what is the extent of that power. In countries where the power of ne exeat continues, it is used in both civil and criminal cases. The state and the courts must have some effective power to bring about justice. I recognize that there must be a balance. The medieval Spanish practice, which remained in the Philippines, until Independence in 1898, of requiring the approval of the parish priest in order to leave one's village, is tyranny. And the international community has established a framework to accept legitimate refugees. It's called the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951).

But Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, having been sued on plunder and being investigated for election fraud, cannot be said to be a legitimate refugee under the convention. And considering powerful politicians have many opportunities to thwart the public prosecutor before a matter even makes it before a regular trial judge with the seemingly unlimited interlocutory appeals of simple criminal charges and informations, the process could be used to frustrate the ends of justice.

Next, I have reviewed the medical information disclosed to the public regarding the condition of Macapagal-Arroyo. It appears, that she has been aware of her degenerative disorder for some time. All cases of parathyroid disease is one of very slow degeneration. It is unclear what her reasons were for waiting so long to address the underlying parathyroid problem or why the medical profession in the Philippines cannot address her symptoms. The fact that she creates a medical emergency for herself, does not thereby increase the burden on the public prosecutor to prohibit her from leaving the country.

The standard test for injunctive relief is helpful: what is the likelihood of the prosecutor to prevail on the merits, what is the irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted, does the balance of harms weigh in favor of the prosecutor and would public policy support injunctive relief?

It becomes obvious that if a fugitive is permitted to depart from the jurisdictions of the courts and enter into realms beyond their reach, that will be irreparable harm. It is also true that the case for why Arroyo must go abroad has not been clearly established and so it is difficult to assess what harm, if any, will come to her of the prosecutor's doing. Just because she refuses to get medical treatment in the Philippines and thereby exacerbates her degenerative condition, does not increase the harm to her at the cause of an injunction. Finally, there is a clear public policy in favor of having crimes of public officials like corruption, electoral fraud and plunder be resolved to finality by the courts.

From the standard from an injunction (or a writ of prohibition in some parts), the standards have been met. As is regularly stated, if there is substantial likelihood of irreparable harm, the balance of harms favors the prosecutor and public policy supports the issuance of an injunction, then the question of prevailing on the merits of the case becomes less important. At this point, it would be difficult to meaningfully prove up one's case against Arroyo if the investigation is continuing.

The standards for exercising ne exeat powers is much lower that injunctive relief. So, if an injunction would be appropriate to prohibit travel, as the Secretary of Justice has done administratively with her order, the sovereign would obviously have the power to restrain Arroyo from departing the country through its ne exeat powers.


ceci n'est pas une maladie

29 October 2011

Movie Review: Kape Barako

Ceci n'est pas un cafe.

In a number of reviews that have been posted, there seems to be this repetition of a certain perspective regarding independent cinema that I must dissent from. It is the outright dismissal of all films that feature sex, sexuality or the naked bodies. It is not a surprising occurrence. In Manila, and especially among the wealthier classes, there is a public aversion to the body, to sex and to life. The animal part of us is something to feel shame and guilt towards -- as though our bodies were something separate from ourselves.

I do not disagree with the view, on the other hand, that many independent films go to a reactionary extreme (an enantiodromia perhaps?) where a film enacts a similar one-sided compensatory reaction which has value in pointing us to the underlying problem.

Kape Barako, directed by Monti Parungao and written by Lex Bonife, is a clear attempt to tell us something about our feelings of shame and guilt but not from the view point of tragedy. As von Franz once wrote:
It is a normal rhythm in human reactions, illustrated for instance in the classical antique plays where three tragedies are succeeded by a comedy. One could not go home after having seen Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and two others like it; there had to be one of Aristophanes' comedies at the end so that everyone would roar with laughter... It is the climax of excitement which turns into the wish to laugh -- one cannot stand too much of such an exaggerated tragic condition so that occasionally one is compelled to make fun of it.
It is for these reasons, that comedies, especially must be looked at very very carefully, before one can cast them into the rubbish bin of meaninglessness or our own shadow contents. Kape Barako is precisely a Feast of Fools. That is a celebration of medieval Europeans in which the roles in social and religious life were reversed and blasphemy reigned as the liturgy on this day. It was finally prohibited in the 1400s with the strictest punishments. This of course was followed by what Norbert Elias referred to as the civiling process in which our bodies, materiality and so forth was increasingly habituated/disciplined into its present state through shame, guilt and repugnance. European and American encounters with natives all over the tropics who had hang ups in departments other than the body and hiding it presented very uncomfortable moments of ethnographic self-reflection which would usually result in some effort to "correct" "reform" or "teach" us -- including Filipinos. Now, of course, anthropologists write books and books about our neurosis with how we clothe ourselves!

So, we are definitely in the realm of the shadow in this movie. It has the usual features of this realm: naked bodies, open and unabridged displays of sexuality, objectification of the male body. But then it has something more -- which, if felt out accordingly, might produce a light nausea. Coffee is mixed with semen and served to clients.

Ceci n'est pas une barrista.

Let's do some associations, shall we?

Coffee was first discovered as a useful bean plant in Ethiopia hundreds of years ago and crossed over to Yemen where it became firmly established as a vivifying drink -- used by Sufi mystics in their night time devotions to stay awake. It was banned by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the 12th century and was unbanned in the 19th century. It became a drink of the aristocracy in Europe in the 17th century and fortunes were made by imperial-merchant companies growing coffee in the tropical colonies and importing them back to the imperium.

Coffee is black but it has an awakening, vivifying effect. It is slightly acidic. Traditionally, coffee trees were grown under much larger canopy trees and were grown in what was called 'shade-cultivation.' So coffee has a strong association with elements that could be associated with the shadow contents of the psyche. It is grown in the shade, the shadows. It is black but had an awakening, vivifying effect. It goes through an extensive process from the tree to the roasted bean that is ground and and then hot water added. It is not just a primitive shadow content. But the liquid end-result of a long process of distillation. It is a concentrated form of the shadow.

I don't feel like I need to really go into a long history or association of semen, do I? Semen has always been associated with what it does in humans and other animals. It creates.

So what does it mean for coffee, this concentrated form of the shadow, is mixed, secretly, with the procreative force? In Kape Barako, we are told that it activates and resonates with gay men -- who as I mentioned before represent a certain shadow figure. This is a key point. It is only the gay men who respond to this powerful form of creativity, mixed with the shadow -- who slowly turn a failing coffeehouse into a successful coffeehouse with gay bar qualities. In order to save the coffeehouse, the owner agrees to a macho dance show and he is able to save the coffeehouse. Although the coffeehouse has a certain historical association with elitism and hierarchy I don't think that's a central theme in the movie. Instead, we are shown that the mixing of this condescended and concentrated form of the shadow and creativity offers a recipe towards a livelihood.

I will now talk about the end of the movie, so be forewarned.

The end scene tells us that we have experienced a Fools Mass or a Feast of Fools. Afi Africa's character presents a complex reversal of gender norms in many respects. He is the bakla. But, at the same time, he has adopted the Christian and conservative attitude on feminine sexuality as his own -- that is, he's a virgin. This only gets more complexified when Johnron Tañada's character ends the movie by going down on him. It robs him entirely of the self-imposed femininity of his sexuality. This indicates that the comedy has provided in a joking manner, the most serious truth which names the important role of the shadow in the development of consciousness, but does not go so far as to fully demonstrate it and remove the story from the realm of play. Nothing is safe including the absurdity of adopting a narrow, misogynistic view of feminine sexuality. Had it not been a Feast of Fools type comedy, it would have ended with Johnron Tañada making out with Afi Africa and then a tender love-making scene.

The renewal and further development of consciousness cannot occur without the Feast of Fools. It cannot be skipped and dismissing it only adds energy to the autonomous functioning of the shadow -- which may be what your soul is just looking for. A reactionary movement to one extreme before transcending both.

I hope to spark a discussion with this post about some of the things I've written here. Please feel free to add your voice.

28 October 2011

Movie Review: Dahmer

I did not watch this movie when it first came out. And I watched it on an impulse. I don't recall having such a nauseating experience of a movie in such a long time. One particularly gruesome scene, in which I averted my eyes and muted the sound was when Dahmer drills a hole into the head of the actor playing Konerak Sinthasomphone, the 14 year old Laotian victim of Dahmer (played by Dion Basco, one of the very handsome and talented Fil-Am Basco brothers of California).

It doesn't matter how many times the story of Konerak Sinthasomphone has been told or even nervously joked about by American comedians when Dahmer was caught. A psychopath drugging a 14 year old boy unconscious, raping him and drilling a small hole into the side of his head while he's still alive, but unconscious, is just too much to stomach. And this scene occurs in the first ten or so minutes of the movie so it was like a cinematic punch.

The only thing that was more disturbing was when the Konerak character made his escape. Knowing the outline of the story of Dahmer from when he was caught, it was the longest sequence of the film, for me.

You see, Jeffrey Dahmer, was an American serial killer, who would drug his victims, rape them, drill holes in their heads, kill them, decapitate them, eat parts of the them, refrigerate other parts of them and chemically dissolve other parts. His victims were all men (and most gay).

Konerak Sinthasomphone's death was so tragic that twenty years later I remembered it and was haunted by it. You see, a few years before he ensnared Konerak, he was convicted of molesting Konerak's younger brother. Konerak was Laotian.

In the early morning hours of May 27, 1991, three police officers responded to a 911 call from a rundown Milwaukee, Wisconsin suburb. Two 18 year old Black women witnessed an incoherent Asian boy running around naked and bleeding from the head and rectum. He could not speak English but in his incoherence demonstrated obvious fright at Dahmer who was 31. Dahmer told the police that Konerak was his 19 year old gay lover -- Konerak was 14. And that they had a lover's quarrel. The police returned the two to Dahmer's apartment. The police officer subsequently reported back to the 911 dispatcher "Intoxicated Asian, naked male was returned to his sober boyfriend" then added that his partner was "going to get deloused."

Konerak Sinthasomphone (1976-1991)

The police made no effort to identify Konerak to learn that he was a child. The two women followed up with the police later and were told that everything had been taken care of. Although Dahmer had already drilled a hole into Konerak's head. He would subsequently strangle him to death, rape and abuse his body then dismember it and keep his head as a trophy. He would then rape and kill four more young gay men.

Had the police identified Konerak and Dahmer, they would have either discovered that Konerak was 14 or Dahmer was still on court probation for molesting Konerak's younger brother. But they didn't.

This movie is not for the faint of heart and is a true horror film -- even if its true and I knew how it would end. This movie and reflection on it will leave you with questions about evil in this world -- this ought to be even more challenging if you believe in a personal, benevolent and omnipotent god. I previously wrote about Ladlad's push for hate crimes inquiry and legislation. I think the story of Konerak shows us what is lacking in hate crimes legislation. It is police training and proper investigation and enforcement of the law as it is written that is needed most. Until the rule of law is present, there is no justice.

24 October 2011

Movie Review: Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa


I have decided to end my long silence on Philippine films in this blog. There are a number of reasons for doing so. The film I'm about to review being one of them. I do not intend to write many reviews of Philippine films so when you see one, know that the film has registered as significant to me.

The script of this movie is part traditional cinematic dialogue and part the spoken poetry of Merlinda Bobis, Ruth Mabanglo, Joi Barros, Rebecca Anonuevo, Ophelia Dimalanta and Benilda Santos. You might wonder if its possible to include so much feminist poetry in a movie without it becoming academic. The movie is hardly academic. Instead, the poetry is used as a way for Karen (played by Jean Garcia) to bring a particular matter into the field of consciousness with more emotional resonance than just dialogue.

Rich kid Marlon (played by Paulo Avelino) is a mediocre student in his poetry class, taught by Karen. He also happens to have a big crush on her. Stalking her, he discovers that she also sidelines as a dance instructor and choreographer. He is caught watching her from outside her studio one day by fellow poetry class student Dennis (Rocco Nacino). He does not recognize or really have a familiarity with Dennis from his poetry class.

However, sensing an opportunity, Marlon offers Dennis a ride to the studio the next day where he eventually decides to hire Marlon to teach him the various dances that Karen is teaching so that he can enter the class with competence. Marlon simply asks that the instruction be done outside the knowledge of Karen. Dennis who has a crush on Marlon readily agrees.

The private tutoring brings the two young men together. Marlon eventually enters Karen's dance class. However, Karen seeing precisely what is going on, decides to bring things into consciousness which naturally brings light to a conflict in Marlon. As we know, so long as things remain in the unconscious, it is easy for denial to operate effectively with the left hand simply undoing what the right hand has done without conflict. But as soon as the conflict is brought into consciousness, there is tremendous suffering.

Let me digress momentarily to help illustrate this point. In Lihim ni Antonio, we could clearly see what was going on, di ba? Remember Uncle Jonbert. It was as clear as clear could be -- even Tong's mother saw him cuddling with Tong. But, as long as denial is operative and everything is occurring in the unconscious, there is no problem. When Tere is finally told the obvious truth about the unfaithfulness of her overseas husband, suddenly everything is dragged into consciousness. The shadow side is brought under the light and what Tong fantasized Uncle Jonbert being his plaything, turns out that Tong is Uncle Jonbert's plaything. We see that when the conflict is brought into consciousness, there is tremendous suffering and it does not necessarily produce a successful end. Tere goes catatonic and Tong is sent drifting out to sea -- to reproduce the struggle and, perhaps, transcend it.

Back to Sayaw. So Karen nudges Marlon to be conscious of his conflict. Karen overhears a brief comment by Dennis to Marlon which indicates something occurring behind the scenes. Karen then discovers from the studio landlord the entire arrangement. She makes it known to Marlon that she knows and also asks him if she thinks his crush on her is appropriate. Marlon's reaction is to blame Dennis and be mad at Dennis! The conflict has been brought into consciousness.

It is at this point that Karen helps conduct Marlon through a series of exercises that will help him to discover within himself the resolution to his conflict: a choreographed version of Humapadnon in the Hinilawod epic of the Suludnon.

I will save the ending for you to discover if/how his conflict is resolved when you watch the film. But I will add one more point about the movie which I think is relevant for my understanding of it. As Marlon and Dennis work towards the performance, Marlon has a moment of panic where he attempts to control his out-of-control feelings which are well outside of his comfort zone. He does it by attempting to minimize the significance of Dennis. (In much the same way that the conflict of Walang Kawala begins when Joaquin attempts to take control of his own conflict by trying to minimize the significance of Waldo.)

The final scene, which is the staged, choreographed enactment of the part of the Hinilawod where Nagmalitong Yawa saves Humapadnon, is where the conflict's underlying symbolic tensions -- with Marlon at its center as Humapadnon and the archetypal forces at work -- are most clearly revealed.

Alvin Yapan did an excellent job of weaving the story together with the textiles of feminist poetry, indigenous epic and emotion. The cinematography, by Alvin Viola, was also masterfully done just as he did in Lalake sa Parola and Lihim ni Antonio.

The movie will be opening this Wednesday 26 October at the following theaters:
SM: North Edsa, Megamall, Centerpoint, Manila, Southmall, MOA and Bacoor
Ayala: Glorietta 4, Trinoma

17 October 2011

Book Review: Gay Dads

David Strah is a New York City resident who is a gay father and a writer. He wrote this book based on his experiences as a gay dad with his partner Barry.

This is definitely not an academic book and everything about gay fatherhood in the U.S. One of the benefits of being gay is that most gay men do not have accidental children. However, the mystery of the accidental child reappears in the wholly arbitrary process of social workers, adoption agencies, lawyers and government officials.

It's clear that not every person should be a parent. This is true for both biological parents and prospective adoptive parents. At one point, the inquiry regarding adoption was that it was a benefit to childless parents. Now, we look at adoption as what is in the best interest of the child.

But this is quite a subjective analysis that is loaded with tremendous social implications. Art. 185 of the Family Code requires that "Husband and wife must jointly adopt, except in the following cases: (1) When one spouse seeks to adopt his own illegitimate child; or (2) When one spouse seeks to adopt the legitimate child of the other."

This provision, for intracounty adoptions in the Philippines, limits adoptions by gay men to those that are married to women. However, it is possible for an unmarried gay man in many other countries to adopt a Philippine child through an intercountry adoption so long as he is "eligible to adopt under his/her national law." Sec 9 of RA 8043.

What a strange sort of discrepancy in the law. It is much more complicated and expensive to complete an intercountry adoption. How funny this strange sort of discrepancy is. What does this really tell us about our country? Especially if you look at the fact that the standard for adoptions is the best interest of the child. How is only married parents for intracountry adoptions in the best interest of the child, where other forms of parenting are not -- except if the child leaves the country? Is the standard the best interest of the child or the best interest in the integrity of outdated, reactionary public policy on marriage in our country?

This book does not address any of those issues. Rather, it focuses on the stories of how men of varying backgrounds who feel the call to be a parent go through different trials and tribulations to become parents.

The version I read was a 270 page paperback published by Tarcher/Penguin (2003), ISBN-10:1585423335. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was used at abebooks.com.