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Archive for November 2011

May it please the Court

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For nearly an hour,  I stood and made my case before the gods of Mt. Olympus, my heart in my mouth.  It was my very first time to actually argue before the Philippine Supreme Court — and I was  co-counsel to Prof. Harry Roque in a petition we filed on behalf of  residents of the Province of Palawan in their bid to get a rightful share in the proceeds of the Malampaya oil and gas wells.  Our case rested on the constitutionalization of the international legal regime of the Continental Shelf and the constitutional and statutory grant of fiscal autonomy for local governments.

I barely survived the intense  questioning — for the most part, by  Justices Antonio Carpio and Teresita De Castro. We were given 25 minutes to make our arguments. Prof. Roque, who was first to argue, took 17 minutes to discuss the first three points of our case. I  took care of the last two points in 8 minutes. But the interpellation took much longer. Prof. Roque was grilled for a little more than two hours, and I, for nearly an hour.

When it was all  over, I was simply thankful that I survived the ordeal without throwing up or fainting in shame and terror. It was an unforgettable day for another reason — the oral arguments were held a day after the Maguindanao Massacre.  The very next day, I took the earliest flight to Davao City  to head for Maguindanao  and see how the Center for International Law may assist authorities and families of the victims in the quest for justice.

The photo below was taken after the oral arguments. (From L-R: Me,  Prof.  Roque, Dr. Raul C. Pangalangan and the DFA’s Mr. Henry Bensurto, the latter two being amici curiae in the case).

The same photo introduces the sixth and last installment in the SIX BIG QUESTIONS project of Gideon Strauss, senior fellow of the US-based Center for Public Justice.   In this project,  I join several guest bloggers in his blog in answering, in 250 words or less, six questions that deal with faith, character, vision and personal context.  What contributions am I called to make? And my response is found here. For my fifth post, click here.







Written by Romel

November 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm

GMA Arrested: Problem, Promise, Prognosis

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I spoke tonight at a forum organized by theology students at the Asian Theological Seminary (ATS) on the current political situation in the Philippines. In particular, I discussed the topic, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Arrested: Problem, Promise and Prognosis.

I built the talk around the thesis that what we are witnessing is an opportunity for the country’s political system to decisively defeat the forces of traditional  and patronage politics and set in place a public legal community founded on the norms of public justice.

Click here for  link to the outline of my presentation.



Written by Romel

November 25, 2011 at 3:09 pm

On Possibilites and Limitations

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Amsterdam’s  Museum of Modern Art — the Stedelijk Museum — housed Picassos, Warhols and De Koonings (apart from the works of many other modern masters). Which is one of the reasons why for the better part of 2007 towards the end of my graduate studies,  I spent many Sunday afternoons there (at its temporary quarters that is) , to write  my master’s thesis .  There was a restaurant on the 6th floor, if memory serves me right, where one could grab a beer or juice to relax after hours spent in the exhibits. But cash-strapped, I brought for merienda home-made  sandwiches and cheap 1-liter orange juice in tetrapak.

This graduate school memento many pounds ago  prefaces the fifth installment in the SIX BIG QUESTIONS project of Gideon Strauss, senior fellow of the Center for Public Justice.

As a guest blogger, I answer six questions. I’m now on my fifth.  The post answers the question, what possibilities are afforded to me and what constraints are imposed upon me by my time and place?  Click here for my previous post.

Written by Romel

November 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Where do I belong?

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Please don’t laugh at the photograph.
That’s really me four years ago,  in a country where regular hair cuts were beyond  the means of a graduate student subsisting on starvation-level scholarship stipend.

And yes, the guy I’m talking to in the photo  is the man himself, Mr. Jose Maria Sison.

I thought this photograph would make an intriguing  introduction to the fourth  installment in the SIX BIG QUESTIONS project initiated by Gideon Strauss, senior fellow of the US-based Center for Public Justice.   Along with  several bloggers, I  reflect on six questions in 250 words or less and post my reflections on his blog.

The fourth question: where do I belong? And my response may be found here.  Click here for the third  installment.

Written by Romel

November 21, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Who am I?

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It’s not a movie by Jackie Chan (which I love, by the way) but the third installment in the SIX BIG QUESTIONS project. This project was initiated by Gideon Strauss, senior fellow of the US-based Center for Public Justice.   Along with  several bloggers, I  reflect on six questions in 250 words or less and post my reflections on his blog.

Who am I? Here’s my answer. Click here for the previous installment.

Written by Romel

November 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Bagares, balak, beauty

Tagged with , ,

What do I believe?

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This is the second in the  SIX BIG QUESTIONS project initiated by Gideon Strauss, senior fellow of the US-based Center for Public Justice.

This time, I outline what I believe as a person of faith in 250 words or less. Click  here for the link to the first post.

Written by Romel

November 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Bagares, balak, beauty

Tagged with , ,

The things I love

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Gideon Strauss, senior fellow at the Center for Public Justice, asked me to participate as one of several guest bloggers on his blog. In this SIX BIG QUESTIONS  project inspired by the thought of  his friend Steven Garber,  the guest bloggers are asked to list down the things they love and then, to answer the other FIVE  big questions:

What do I believe?

Who am I?

where do I belong?  

What possibilities are afford to me what constraints are imposed on me by my time and place?

What contributions am I called to make?

Here is my response to the first question: What do I love?

Written by Romel

November 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm

So, what’s on your list?

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It’s less than two months before Christmas. No wonder people are beginning to make their list of things. For his part, Dean Nicholar Lemann of the venerable  Columbia Graduate School of Journalism has made a list of books journalists of the future should be able to read to be able to navigate the brave new world of journalism in the 21st century.

At least  I can say I’ve made my own list well before Dean Lemann did, and posted it as a note on Facebook (stamped on the note is the record of the date of posting — September 22, 2010). It seems his brilliant mind has met mine on at least two points. Two books I rated in my list as must-reads — Dispatches, by Michael Herr, and Berlin Diary, by William Shirer — are on his list too.

Click here to go to Dean Lemann’s list, published in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Scroll down for a re-post of my Facebook note:

The Journalism List: Personal (Re)Collections

I recently spoke in an ACLE session at my undergraduate alma mater, UP Mass Comm – a pinch-hitter for my boss. I thought the invite was for me to give an update on the Maguindanao massacre case; instead I found myself talking to students half my age about my former life as a journalist, and what I thought they should be reading to prepare themselves for such a demanding profession (predictably, none of them seemed to have read or heard about any of the authors I mentioned at the talk). After the talk, I decided to make a list of the books on journalism I thought any journalism student should read. The list is only of foreign authors (most of them American). A good number are memoirs written by journalism greats and they are valuable for the insights they give on the nature of journalism as a profession. In a word, they are windows to an expanded vision of the field. The others are anthologies of reportage. I added two books written on what it means to have a free press – the first was by a lawyer who argued before the US Supreme Court a landmark case on free speech and the second, by a long-time justice reporter for the New York Times, who covered the same case and wrote an important book about it. There is one work of fiction by a British novelist who at one time worked as a war correspondent in Ethiopia. His novel was a thinly-disguised account of his experiences there. Another book is by an Italian radical whose work presents a nice counter-point to the liberal democratic perspective that dominates thinking on journalism.  I only included books I have in my personal library, acquired for the most part in nearly two decades of raiding used book shops from all over the place. In the next few days, I’ll probably add more to this list, as the ones included here are what I can remember for now. I am sorry to say my collection of Filipiniana on journalism is rather slim but I just might later on make a separate list for Filipino works.

Vincent Sheean, Personal History

Theodore White, In Search of History: A Personal Adventure

Harrison Salisbury, A Time of Change

Philip Knightley, The First Casualty

Reporting, Lillian Ross

Reporting Back, Lillian Ross

Dispatches, Michael Herr

The World of Jimmy Breslin

Philip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You that tomorrow we will be killed with our families

Pete Hamill, News is A Verb: Journalism at the end of the 20th century

Pete Hamill, A Drinking Life

William Shirer, Berlin Diary: The Journal of A Foreign Correspondent

Ben Bagdikian, Double Vision

H.L. Mencken, Thirty-Five Years of Newspaper Work: A Memoir

Martha Gellhorn, Travels with Myself and Another: A Memoir

Evelyn Waugh, Scoop

John Hersey, Hiroshima

Lincoln Steffens. “The Shame of the Cities.” 1902-1904

John Reed. Ten Days That Shook the World.

James Agee and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

John McPhee. The John McPhee Reader.

Russel Baker, Growing Up

Hannah Arendt. Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Norman Mailer. The Armies of the Night.

Joan Didion. Slouching Towards Bethlehem

I.F. Stone, The Best of I.F. Stone

An American Album: One Hundred Fifty Years of Harper’s Magazine

Floyd Abrams, Speaking Freely: The Trials of the First Amendment

Anthony Lewis, Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment

Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks

Michael Ignatieff, The Warrior’s Honor: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience

The Crimes of War Project Handbook

Robert Coles, Children of Crisis

Robert Coles, The Call of Stories and the Moral Imagination

Granta Magazine Issue No. 53 (News)

Granta Magazine Issue No. 58 (Ambition)

Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar

Tom Wolfe, The New Journalism

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Gary Wills, Lead Time: A Journalist’s Education

St. Augustine, Confessions

Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons

Flannerry O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters

Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli

Czeslaw Milosz, To Begin Where I Am

Tracy Kidder, The Soul of  a New Machine

Written by Romel

November 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm

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