POSTSCRIPT / May 20, 2012 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Even senators are not safe from Ombudsman

IDENTITY: While we sometimes disagree with opinion surveys, Filipinos following the “American Idol” singing contest on TV cheered the selection by viewers of Filipino-Mexican Jessica Sanchez as one the two finalists last Wednesday.

That was so, I dare say, mainly because although Jessica is an American with a Mexican father (and a Filipina mother), we consider her one of us. We identify with her.

We ignored the fact that the finalists were chosen not on the sole basis of how well they sang, but on how many votes were cast in their favor after the show.

That judging by viewers is an electronic version of an opinion poll. The critiques of the Season 11 judges (Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson) did not count.

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DEMOGRAPHICS: I assume that many viewers voted not so much on the basis of how the contestants performed — since the three finalists were all champion material — as on whom they identified with.

Sorry for Joshua Ledet who was eliminated despite his consistently fine form, but Jessica had millions of diehard ethnic followers bunched in California, the state with the largest voting population in the US.

Somebody should do a demographic analysis of the ethnic factor, the dominance of females in the studio audience, and the overwhelming number among TV viewers of cellphone-lugging youngsters who vote and influence their elders.

Also worth studying is the fact that one of the judges, Jackson, made put-down remarks about Jessica – raising a howl from the audience and possibly triggering a retaliatory vote from sympathetic viewers.

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MOLDING OPINION: Our ambivalent view of opinion surveys is mentioned here to highlight the methods used by some commercial pollsters.

The “American Idol” scores were based on the responses of some 60 million viewers who voted in two hours via telephones, the Internet and SMS text. But many admitted casting multiple votes.

To compare, the fieldwork of survey firms in Manila is carried out largely unnoticed. Their sample of 1,200 adults is made to represent a 95-million population that is not homogenous and confined to one defined area.

These are the same surveys used to mold public opinion or perceptions in the ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona in the Senate.

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SHOWDOWN: The Chief Justice is set to testify on Tuesday in a showdown with Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. Hopefully the collision will show who is the Big (or Bigger?) Liar.

Morales has accused Corona of maintaining 82 secret dollar accounts with a combined balance of some $10 million. The Chief Justice said that is not true.

Corona’s lawyers are saying that he has only three or four, certainly not a staggering 82, dollar accounts, the balance of which does not exceed $1 million.

In any case, the Chief Justice is not being impeached for unexplained wealth, but for allegedly not declaring all his assets as required by law. He said he did.

Even assuming he has only one dollar account with a balance of just $1,000, his lawyers explained that foreign currency deposits in the country are strictly confidential and therefore not to be publicized.

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FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER: How many senators developed inferiority complex as the Ombudsman dazzled them with a PowerPoint presentation showing that the man they were trying had 82 fat dollar accounts?

They were probably so overwhelmed that they forgot to check if Morales’ figures were verified. It must have been enough for them that she said the figures came from the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The senators forgot to call in AMLC officials to verify the figures under oath and explain how they got them.

By letting the Ombudsman get away with using unverified figures to corner the quarry of President Noynoy Aquino, the senators may have let loose a Frankenstein’s monster who could also go after them.

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LAPSES: But some of the senators, notably Bongbong Marcos and Jinggoy Estrada have pointed out the danger of allowing the Ombudsman to recklessly bomb the Senate with unverified data.

There have been similar lapses in the past. Among them:

* The chamber failed to punish the head of the Land Registration Administration when he manufactured a list of 45 valuable real property that he said were owned by Corona. It turned out only four were owned by him.

* Some members of the prosecution panel used illegally acquired and falsified documents to prompt the Senate to issue subpoenas in one fishing expedition.

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CASTRATED: Aside from the Ombudsman, there were private individuals who also accused Corona of amassing a dollar hoard without their presenting evidence.

One of them, Harvey Keh of the Ateneo, was at least scolded by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for bringing to the court unverified information – with a media crew in tow.

But why did the senators crack down on Keh while letting Ombudsman Morales without as much as a critical reminder on due process?

Is it possible that the Ombudsman, by taking on the Chief Justice with the obvious backing of President Aquino, may have struck fear into their hearts?

Have big politicos in the Senate with hidden unexplainable wealth been politically castrated?

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INTERSEX: Re our Postscript last May 17 on persons with intersex condition (whose sex is hard to determine because of abnormal biological characteristics), former Justice Senior Undersecretary Ernesto Pineda sent this note:

“In a Supreme Court decision entitled ‘Republic vs. Cagandahan’, 565 SCRA 72, an intersex child by the name ‘Jennifer Cagandahan’ filed a petition with the Supreme Court for change of her name to ‘Jeff Cagandahan’.

“However, because of being a minor, the Supreme Court said that she must first reach the age of majority (18 years) before she makes a final decision about her gender.  In other words, her gender will be determined by her own decision upon reaching the age of majority.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 20, 2012)

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