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Magnificent in Iloilo October 27, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, I, Lawyer.
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I am writing in the stark new whiteness that is Iloilo’s international airport, arriving an hour earlier than my scheduled flight. It is 7:43 in the morning, a diffused gray light permeating through gray overcast clouds and the vents of the airport roof.

Two days earlier, I was appearing for the private complainant in a criminal case for the violation of B.P. Blg. 22, the Bouncing Checks Law. It was an interesting experience for me, one where the gentle spirit of the Ilonggo people was laid bare before the halls of justice.

Being a case for bouncing checks, my hearing was held at the Municipal Trial Court, where jurisdiction over B.P. 22 cases is lodged. There were around 20 other cases slated for hearing prior to our case’s arraignment, in various stages of hearing, from arraignment to pre-trial to full-blown trial.

I was amused to observe the proceedings of these cases. Most of these were for violations of B.P. 22, and I was surprised to see that considering the number of cases slated for hearing that day, I only saw a few lawyers. The room could barely contain the throng of people gathering outside to participate in the proceedings. The first few cases were called, and to confirm my suspicions, most if not all the party-litigants weren’t represented by legal counsel. That was weird. In Cebu, it is very uncommon for parties to appear in court without being represented by a lawyer, while here in this court, counsel represented only 1 out of every 5 cases.

The judge started the day by berating the number of people gathered before her to try their cases, for the reason that so many of the B.P. 22 cases lodged with her court had barely moved from the date of filing. Now this is surprising, notwithstanding the delay in the Philippine justice system. In my experience in Cebu, B.P. 22 cases usually were resolved within a year, or 2 years most. But it seemed like each and every case that stood before the judge had long been stuck in litigation, taking around 3 to 5 years to move from arraignment to pre-trial, which is highly unusual.

Now there can only be two reasons for this delay of so many number of cases. It was either that that particular court didn’t have a judge for the said number of years and that the judge before me was newly installed to her position. But on the other hand, it could also be that the party litigants themselves delayed the trial of the case either through neglect, lack of interest, or mutual consent to delay the case.

Judging from the ebullient rantings of that judge, I guess the situation in this court was of the latter, that the litigants themselves have not moved for the prosecution of the case. Again, I found this unusual. Usually, in Cebu, once the private complainant filed the case for B.P. 22, his lawyer’s marching orders are to hasten the proceedings for immediate collection in the case. But here in Iloilo, I was amused to find that the private complainants themselves were asking the judge to give them more time to settle the case with the accused, as if they were embarrassed to have filed the case in the first place with the court. Of course, the judge got angrier at that point and started chiding the parties in Ilonggo.

“Ti lima na ka tuig inyong settlement haw, kag way pa gihapon mo na obra nga compromise. Guin-usik-usik lang ninyo akon oras, indi na puwede! Mag-pre-trial na ta subong, kay kun dili, akon i-dismiss ang kaso!” (You have been trying to settle this case for 5 years and until now, you still haven’t worked out a compromise. You’re just wasting my time, this cannot be. We shall have pre-trial today, otherwise I will dismiss the case).

I actually pitied the accused. Had they hired a lawyer, they themselves could have moved for the dismissal of the case with prejudice, for the violation of their Constitutional right to speedy trial. 5 years is an abnormally long time to resolve a B.P. 22 case. And for what? The amounts involved in the trial were very minimal, ranging anywhere from P10,000 to P30,000.

This reveals a lot about the Ilonggo people to me, insofar as litigation is concerned. Based on this, I infer that Ilonggos are very gentle people who would avoid direct confrontation at all costs, preferring to work things out through compromise and discussion. Judging from their behavior in the courts, the party litigants seemed like they didn’t want to have to resort to litigation to enforce collection of the checks, but perhaps to show the accused that they meant business, the private complainants filed the cases anyway for collection.

In Cebu, you would have found the party litigants arguing in heated debate before the judge. Here in Iloilo, after sheepish appearance before the courts, the parties walked away shaking hands and smiling at each other. Interesting. Indeed, the Ilonggos are a warm and gentle people.

My client, a Cebuano contractor for construction projects, also pointed out something interesting about Iloilo: the buildings and their interiors were better designed than the ones in Cebu. He concluded that architects here had more say over the outcome of the building and that Ilonggos were willing to spend good money for good-looking homes and offices, much like the people in Manila. This was unlike Cebu where cost, value and functionality were more important considerations over design and aesthetics, evidenced by the admittedly drab and Spartan design of Cebuano structures. In Cebu, the contractor had bigger say over the final outcome of the construction, much more than the architects, consistent with the Cebuano mentality that “We don’t care so much about it looking fancy, just make sure the building is stable and built at low cost.”

I wish I had more time to tour around during my stay here but my time was spent at the hotel studying my cases and working on pending pleadings. I would have wanted to visit the old houses and churches that the Ilonggos are known for. At least I got to meet up with old friends and sample some of the tasty Ilonggo cuisine. The batchoy and the inasal nga manok was superb. I also got to see that contrary to what I expected, Iloilo was actually quite urbane. I was expecting something like Tagbilaran or Dipolog, a city that still looks like a town.

Well… they’re calling my flight back home to Cebu. Thus ends my first ever trip to the land of batchoy, Dinagyang, beautiful buildings and gentle people. It was an interesting trip, but nevertheless, it would be good to go back home.

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Cleaning Up October 14, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, cebuano, clean and green, Legally Opinionated and Jurisprudent.
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Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

I am rousing myself from my self-imposed intellectual slumber to take part in a movement around the world calling one and all to care about the environment. It’s a movement called Blog Action Day, where bloggers like me are endeavored to raise ecological awareness.

As a Filipino living in the second most heavily-populated metropolis in the country, my ecological concern is about sanitation and garbage management, one of the biggest offshoots and problems arising from the rise of urban living.

As children, we were brought up to believe that “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” And although I was not the tidiest and most fastidious child in the planet, I was however very conscientious about putting my trash straight into the garbage can. It makes sense. We cannot abide clutter in our houses, right? We don’t like to see torn plastic packets, dust, fallen leaves, refuse, bottles, and food wastes lying around where rats, cockroaches and other vermin may scurry about and infest our well-kept homes and tidied apartments.

What doesn’t make sense to me is why our cleanliness and sanitation practices are left behind when we leave our houses. We are supposed to be a well-educated and highly-disciplined nation, and yet, when we go outside, it’s a common sight to see people throwing their waste and refuse just about anywhere. Back when I was still a student, I was distressed to see my fellow schoolmates throwing their barbecue sticks, puso wrappers, and candy packets on the floor, not caring enough to find a nearby trash can to throw their wastes.

I wish the practice stopped as I got older where people are supposed to be more mature and disciplined, but I fear that the older people get, the more callous they were of their surroundings. In fact, I often witnessed one of my classmates in law school, a professional, repeatedly throwing his candy wrappers inside our own classroom, when a garbage can was only a few meters away from where he was eating. I wanted so much to point out to him that this practice was offensive to me because I shared a classroom with him and as students of a prestigious university, a higher caliber of discipline and cleanliness is expected of us. I don’t know which is more disturbing to me, the fact that my highly educated classmate could callously live like a pig or the fact that I who knew better could not bring myself to scold him about his littering in the premises.

The fact is that our littering must stop. It’s the cause of so much of our problems as urban dwellers. Indiscriminate littering has clogged up our sewers and esteros so that come rainy season, we find our streets flooded with dirty rain water and the ghosts of our unsanitary practices coming back to haunt us. Our littering is then washed up to the rivers and seas, causing the pollution of our waters and the poisoning of our precious reefs and fishes.

But even these serious ecological problems aside, doesn’t the sight of trash and refuse disturb anyone anymore? I’ve had the privilege of living in great urban metropolises abroad, from Los Angeles, to San Francisco, to New Jersey and New York. I’ve been to Hong Kong and Toronto and seen cities that are much more heavily populated than Cebu or Manila, and yet walking along their busy causeways and streets, you would find nary a candy wrapper, biscuit packet, or broken bottle lying for all to see or walk on. In fact, it would be very rare to find ANYONE throwing their trash and refuse just about anywhere on the street.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, we Filipinos are PIGS. Our sanitation and littering practices are atrocious. Whether you’re walking along the highly urban streets of Ayala Ave. in Makati City or the sub-urban paths along Cardinal Rosales Ave. in Cebu City, you’re likely to find trash, refuse and the leavings of insensitive urban dwellers so callously left behind on our public streets and avenues.

In fact, one little anecdote sticks to my mind pointing out how unhygienic we Filipinos are. During my first time in the U.S., my American uncle treated the whole family out to a snack at MacDonald’s. I was the first to finish eating, and like most Filipinos, I just left my burger wrapper and plastic cup on my tray, lying on the table for the MacDonald’s busboy to clean up. My uncle called my attention and pointed out that in the U.S., after the customers finish eating, it was expected of them to put their own litter in the trashcan. And true to form, I saw the American patrons cleaning up after themselves, leaving the table ready for the next customer to use them.

We Filipinos pride ourselves in being thoughtful, educated and cultured as a race, and yet, why can’t we emulate something as simple and efficient as that? It’s just a simple matter of cleaning up after ourselves.

Whenever I confront the notorious litterers among my friends, they always give me the excuse, “Well, what are we paying the janitor for then?” Having a janitor or a busboy or a metro-aide to clean up after you is no excuse for us to practice good sanitation and hygiene in our premises, regardless of whether it is in the comfort of our own homes or in public areas of common use. The fact is that as supposedly highly-educated people, we owe it to ourselves to be responsible of where we throw our garbage.

As urban dwellers, you and I are no longer carefree citizens whose domain stops at the perimeter of our fences. We are very closely inter-connected that the practices of one will have a domino effect on the life of another. Every time you play your music too loud, or callously throw your refuse on the street, or even breathe out your cigarette smoke where other people breathe, you are already polluting the environment and affecting the people who live in the city with you.

We all have to be responsible because we do not live in a vacuum where we alone are affected by our own actions. The misdeeds of callousness of one can lead to the degradation of the quality of life of another.

I still believe that cleanliness is next to godliness and we Filipinos, who profess ourselves to be the only dominantly-Christian country in Asia, owe it to ourselves to reflect the Christ within us by living clean and pure even in the most little of practices.

Please… help ease our country’s garbage management problems by simply putting your garbage where it belongs… inside a trashcan. It’s really just as simple as that.

Calling All Bloggers! October 13, 2007

Posted by Janjan in cebuano, Lawyer Jokes Make the World Go Round.
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BLOG ACTION DAY

http://blogactionday.org/

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

Blog Action Day is about MASS participation. That means we need you! Here are 3 ways to participate: