POSTSCRIPT / February 6, 2000 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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How Erap gave out ‘parol’ for Christmas

WE thank President Estrada for our undeserved inclusion in his honor roll of 12 newspapermen who, according to his confused media handlers, are destabilizing his administration by writing the truth.

But at the same time, we have to inform the Bureau of Internal Revenue that our only income from the puny journalistic effort is from the Philippine STAR and not a cent, or even a cup of tepid coffee, from any PR man.

To repay the honor, we will scrounge for something flattering to write about the Estrada administration. We expect this to be a most difficult endeavor, but check POSTSCRIPT on Tuesday. We might be able to run a praise release for the President.

* * *

A GOFER in the office of Press Secretary Rod Reyes told us last Thursday that they manufactured that White Paper on an alleged destabilization plot by media. It was, he said, in a desperate act of self-defense.

That’s all right, we told him, because even bullies still have the right to protect themselves.

He explained that as the planning progressed, they decided to hit two birds with one stone: the newspapermen who have been a pain in the presidential ass, and PR man Bubby Dacer whose juicy public relations contracts leave some envious Palace media types salivating.

But the clumsy smear campaign backfired on the President, who was caught holding a copy of the White Paper even before it could be circulated by his boys.

* * *

ON the Dacer payola bit, the Press Office insider said that they included some Inquirer editors in the alleged payroll in the hope that the targets would react violently and maul Dacer. As of press time, however, nothing of that violent sort has happened.

In fact, the consensus in press circles is that the Palace amateur operators picked the wrong targets to include in an imaginary PR payroll. The list just did not wash.

Of course Mr. Estrada did not know that when he allowed the White Paper to be circulated. There’s a lot he does not know, even if he is president, about the working press.

On this delicate point, he has to rely on his media handlers. But many of them seem to be more interested in making money than making movie has-been Erap Estrada look and sound presidential.

* * *

ON the fumbles of their President, his media handlers cannot even make his alleged occasional inebriation a mitigating excuse.

This, we learned from POSTSCRIPT readers who sent in their answer to our question: Is drunkenness an extenuating, mitigating or aggravating circumstance?

Some readers, understandably non-lawyers, argued that being drunk — even (or especially) for a president — is no excuse for bad behavior, flip-flopping, chronic lying, or swaggering to simulate self-confidence.

Some law students and others who we suspect are lawyers said intoxication is an alternating circumstance – meaning it can either be mitigating or aggravating, depending on a number of elements.

* * *

ONE Bible-toting reader, Jess Palmares, said that while being drunk may be either mitigating or aggravating, it could also be extenuating. Being “not in full possession of one’s faculties at the time,” he said, could be “an excuse for one’s unfortunate acts.”

He may have a point there. But we wish he clarified if “not in full possession…” is similar to a plea of insanity that some impeachable officials could use as a defense of last resort.

Our reader cited instead the crucified Christ who, as He hung dying on the cross, pleaded to high heaven, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

Is not knowing what one is doing a ground for forgiveness? In one case – his signing the pardon papers of a convicted cannibal – President Estrada has admitted publicly that he did not know what he was approving. Forgivable?

* * *

THE incredible manner in which that pardon was approved now has some kapihan habitues taking this insipid joke with their cold coffee:

One late evening a few days before last Christmas, an aide placed the sheaf of pardon papers (that included one for cannibal Norberto Manero) before President Estrada for his signature.

“Ano na naman ito?”  he asked, pushing aside his half-empty glass. (What’s this?)

“Sir, para sa traditional Christmas parole….” (Sir, those are for the traditional Christmas parole….)

“Ah, o sige, mabuti’t naisip ninyo yang pagbibigay ng parol,” he drawled, starting to sign the papers. “Pakilagyan ninyo tuloy ng Christmas card ko.” (All right, it’s a good thing you thought of giving out lanterns. Please put my Christmas card on them.)

* * *

AND, now… the winner in our “Drunkenness” contest is reader JP Danton claiming to be from the MLQU School of Law using a pacific.net address. His emailed response came in at 11:32:58 a.m. last Thursday.

We promised last time to give a small prize to the first reader who sends us the answer to the question “In law, is drunkenness an extenuating, mitigating or aggravating circumstance?”

We want to personally hand to JPDanton his prize, a bottle of red wine, for this piece of information:

“Drunkenness or intoxication is either aggravating or mitigating, depending upon the nature, effects and other conditions surrounding the crime. It is an Alternative Circumstance according to law.”

* * *

ALTERNATIVE circumstances are defined in the Revised Penal Code as “ those which must be taken into consideration as aggravating or mitigating according to the nature and effects of the crime and the other conditions attending its commission. They are the relationship, intoxication, and the degree of instruction and education of the offender.”

The last paragraph of Article 15 further explains “The intoxication of the offender shall be taken into consideration as a mitigating circumstance when the offender has committed a felony in a state of intoxication, if the same is not habitual or subsequent to the plan to commit said felony; but when the intoxication is habitual or intentional, it shall be considered as an aggravating circumstance.”

* * *

DANTON further explains mitigation:

“Intoxication is considered mitigating because when a person is under the influence of liquor, his exercise of will power is greatly impaired.

“The accused is entitled to the mitigating circumstance if it is shown that he has taken such quantity of alcoholic as to blur his reason and deprive him of a certain degree of control or his mental faculties have been affected by drunkenness.

“The law does not say anything about the degree of intoxication needed to mitigate since there is no known formula in determining the exact amount of alcohol that will produce negative effect on the mental faculties.

“The presumption is that intoxication is accidental, so the prosecution must prove that the intoxication is habitual or intentional. It is not enough that the offender used to drink alcohol every night. What needs to be established is that the offender is prone to the excessive and habitual use of intoxicating drinks.

* * *

DANTON explains when intoxication is aggravating, and that is when it is habitual or intentional. He elaborates:

“It is habitual when the offender is given or prone to intoxication by the excessive use of intoxicating drinks. Again, the term excessive is relative. To consider the offender as a habitual drunkard, the habit must be actual and confirmed and there must be a certain regularity in the excessive use of intoxicating drinks.

“Even if intoxication is not habitual, it is still aggravating when it is ‘subsequent to the plan to commit the crime.’ It is considered ‘subsequent’ when the offender resorted to drinking to bolster his courage to commit the crime or to embolden him in carrying out his evil designs.”

* * *

SOME of the runners-up are:

Former Judge Jose T. Apolo of Sun Valley, Parañaque City; whose response came in Thursday, 2:14:35 p.m. He cited the same article in the Revised Penal Code.

Joselito Buan, United Insurance Co., Inc., Federal Tower Bldg., Dasmariñas St., Binondo, Manila: Drunkenness is an aggravating circumstances in our daily work. The day after, you will feel dizzy with headache that will lead you to be floppy, disorganized and perturbed, and so your decisions will always lead you to inconsistencies and will result to quandary.

F. Robe Reisu, Quezon City: It is none of the above (neither extenuating, mitigating nor aggravating). Habitual drunkenness results in a state of stupor. While one under such a circumstance or state is not necessarily fit to be tied, any statement coming from that source is given absolutely no, repeat, absolutely no, evidentiary weight, either in a court of law, or in a kangaroo court. It is, however, given great value in a street brawl which might result in something that is not devoutly desired.

Alfred X. Nolasco of San Beda Law also quoted the penal code.

Ernie Chaves, Lakewood, WA: Drunkenness is a condition wherein a person has already passed the limits of moderate alcohol intake. While on the moderate level, one is already in an abnormal condition. Going past that point aggravates certain situations, internal and external of the being. Internal, wherein both mental and physical faculties are greatly impaired. External, as normally people have low esteem and respect for a drunk.

Caesar I. Agnir, president, Northern Christian College of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte: If Socrates committed the offense, drunkenness would be a mitigating circumstance. If Pope Paul II did it, drunkenness would be aggravating. If you-know-who committed the offense, drunkenness would be extenuating. The reason should be obvious to everyone, including a dropout.

Incidentally, speaking of Socrates, what’s the difference between him and Erap? Answer: Socrates had a thousand admirers who swallowed everything he said. Erap has a thousand advisers and he swallows everything they say.

* * *
 

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 6, 2000)

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