Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stunning SC vote for TRO of RH law. Makikiramdam ang mga SC justices in next two months on pulse of the people on RH. Lessons for youth and nation in the story of two students---Kristel Tejada and bar top-notcher Ignatius Michael Daza Ingles.

The recent 10-5 vote of the Supreme Court to put the RH Law on status quo ante for 120 days---in layman’s language a TRO---is stunning and convincing, given how Court votes could be as tight as 8-7 in some landmark decisions in the past. This kind of vote makes movement from one side to the other difficult---and yet the unexpected really can happen.

Thus, equally stunning here are the implications of the SC magistrates' votes on coming events. For one the Court ordered oral arguments on June 18, more than a full month after the May 13 elections. It's clear that the justices want to have a full sense, a complete picture, of what the people feel and think at this stage in the RH issue’s long history---and this they would gauge from the mid-term elections on May 13.

If Team Buhay wins against Team Patay, and more anti-RH representatives are reelected,  the magistrates would be greatly encourage to uphold their original vote. As one veteran Court observer  puts it, gone are the days when the magistrates would rule exclusively on the merits of the law; much is now political. Makikiramdam ang mga justices.  

To be sure, it won't be a walk in the park for the Bishops, the clergy and their followers---given the awesome power and resources of this administration. They have to work very hard.


What accounts for the 10-5 vote on the RH Law---the majority decision said to have been penned by Justice Jose Catral Mendoza while the dissenting opinion was reportedly written by new Justice Marvic Leonen?  Events secular as well as religious obviously conspired.

For one thing, the Catholic World was absolutely energized by the election of the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires who fought ferociously for Life and the right of the Unborn. Pope Francis was just swallowed up by the love of an adoring world, the SC magistrates included.  There's renewed fervor ennervating the Church, pretty much like the reign of the charismatic John Paul II. 

Then there was the play-up in media of the hard-ball game staged by the Cabinet members during the two crucial votings in the House. The magistrates are only human: they doubtless resented naked use of power by Malacanang.

Mercifully the SC vote prevented what would have been the height of irony and a supreme insult to the Christian world as it celebrated the euphoric inauguration of Pope Francis. The Department of Health had earlier announced that full implementation of the RH Law is to take place this  Easter Sunday, when the Christian world commemorates Christ’s resurrection and conquest of death at the close of the Lenten Season.

DOH Secretary Enrique Ona explained prior to the SC TRO vote that full implementation of the RH Law “just happens” to fall on Easter Sunday (it dictates that implementing rules and regulations (IRR) be published and enforced  within 60 days from its promulgation). To some observers, it was obvious that God just couldn’t allow this desecration of Easter, which the Church holds more meaningful than Christmas. He worked through the justices.

Let me speak of two recent two faces of student life: one a terrible tragedy that has shaken the nation, and the other a triumph and celebration by a family and a "barkada.'. Both situations  hold clear and precious lessons which our people, especially the youth, could draw from and imbibe.

16-year old UP Manila student Kristel Tejada, a student of behavioral sciences committed suicide a few days ago by drinking silver cleaning solution---shattering forever her dream of becoming a surgeon someday. Reports attribute her suicide to her being disallowed to take the final exams despite her good class standing, surrender her student ID and take a forced leave---owing to her inability to pay her tuition obligation of P10, 000. Kristel had earlier applied for two student loans but her applications were turned down by the UP administration, despite a promissory note she was willing to make and her parents’ plea. What weighed heavily against her was that her move was already beyond the deadline.


The initial defensive reaction of UP authorities was to stress that there could have been other circumstances that might have caused Kristel to take her life. Of course there were contributory factors such as the depressing condition of her family life. Being the eldest of five children of a part-time taxi driver in Tondo who’s trying to get back his old job aboard a ship, Kristel wanted so much to break the cycle of poverty gripping her family by becoming a doctor, so that she'd be able to send her three siblings to school. But it was not meant to be.

UP President Alfredo Pascual has since ordered a review of the State University’s “Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) and dropping of the “no late payment” policy, as the clamor to help students in dire need reverberated nationwide. The tragedy of Kristel has forced the nation in this Lenten Season to undergo deep soul-searching for the old core values, particularly in view of the fact that a great percentage of our student population comes from OFW families---young people physically and emotionally bereft of one or both parents and the normal guidance from them.

The review of the STFAP, which began in the first post-EDSA UP presidency of Dr. Jose V. Abueva, is most welcome. There are assertions that after Kristel and her parents raised her predicament to the UP Manila authorities, she should immediately have been transferred to bracket D to E-1 which means free tuition. 


 Other observers also rightfully point out that the slashing of P17 billion from the budgets of State Universities and Colleges last year has made things difficult for them. Doubtless this budget cut was added to the P45 BILLION mobilized this year for the Conditional Cash Transfer supposedly for doleouts to the poorest of the poor families; but the CCT is so unmanageable especially in curbing graft and corruption at ground level. 

I contend that the P45 billion CCT could be more effectively used to fund the education and training of our poor students. As Dr. Aristotle Alip, who operates a nationwide credit-lending system, once put it to me, "You allow one member of a poor family to graduate and he or she automatically will lift it up."


But in addition, there’s the obvious need for deeper psychiatric guidance especially for disturbed students.
Consider the onus Kristel had to bear: her family’s poverty already put her in grave social straits in the UP that now caters more to the upper classes which come from better preparatory schools. A forced leave of absence meant having to repeat her subjects---most humiliating. But in the gigantic university system nobody seemed to notice the deep emotional turmoil Kristel was going through, as she felt the hopelessness of her family’s poverty.

I discussed Kristel's plight with Prof. Ileana R.F. Cruz, former UP Manila faculty member and now Dean of the Emilio Aguinaldo College’s Pharmacy Dept. Ileana stressed that at EAC they are on the lookout when a student is absent for several successive days; contact is made to find out what’s wrong. 

But on this element of empathy for the poor the UP has been judged in the life and death drama of Kristel Tejada---and found badly wanting. Hopefully this is addressed not just in the UP but in other schools.


2013 bar top-notcher Ignatius Michael Daza Ingles
The story of Ignatius Michael Daza Ingles, son of my co-ERDA Board member Marites Daza Ingles and lawyer Enrico Ingles, and grandson of my longtime friend, Teresa Villegas Daza, is justification of the famous dictum of the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Thales, adopted and used in Satire X of  Roman poet Juvenal (10.356-64). This is “mens sana in corpore sano” or “a sound mind in a healthy body.”
Many centuries later, this "mind-body" philosophy was adopted by the founder of the Jesuit Order, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
29-year old Ignatius, or Mickey as he’s called, topped this year’s batch of bar examinees, said to be the toughest in the last 12 years, with only 17 percent passing (of the top ten, two of whom tied at 5th place, Ateneo bagged six, UP four and Aquinas U one).

But Mickey is doubtless equally proud that for two years in his pre-law stint he was captain-ball of Ateneo University’s football team, succeeding his elder brother David, who held it for a year---for a three-peat of sorts in that field.  In fact Mickey admitted to media that sometimes he’d rather be on the playing field than in the library.

Football, though, is a family thing, for dad Enrico, also a football afficionado, is a corporate lawyer who also lawyers for the Court of Arbitration in Switzerland on sports issues, and Philippine representative for FIFA, the world organization for football. Now Mickey is thinking of going into sports law.


There’s also the three-peat story of three Ateneo law classmates and barkada who became bar topnotchers in three succeeding years: Cesareo Antonio Singzon in 2011, Raoul Angelo Atadero in 2012 and now Mickey in 2013. Every bar exam they'd cajole one another to push hard and all made it to the top (landing next to Mickey at the top of this year’s bar exams is Catherine Kay King, who was their Ateneo class valedictorian, while Mickey was class salutatorian and winner of the St. Thomas More Award as “most distinguished law grad.”

Interestingly, Mickey, who was in the Ateneo honors class from first year high school, waited two years to take the bar because he chose to first go to a school in Shanghai to take up Chinese language studies with his wife, the former Carla Michelle "Micki" Blaylock. As mom Marites Ingles puts it, Mickey and Micki have been “happily married” for three years now (no kids yet).

You readers might say this blog is glamorizing brains, persistence, drive for the wide world of learning, and athletics---all combined. You bet.

For comments/reactions, please email: