Reading, Fast and Slow (or the Top 6 books I’ve read in 2015)

(Apologies to Daniel Kahneman, who wrote Thinking Fast and Slow, the inspiration for the title of this blog entry. The same book is also mentioned below.) 

Some books grab you by the balls and never let go unless you’re finished with them (or, for that matter, finished with you). Other books are far less dramatic, allowing you to dip into several pages on occasion, while in between meals, naps, or commutes. 

This, more or less, illustrates my life as a reader in 2015. Continue reading

What Cory can teach Noynoy about truth commissions (and what we can learn from elsewhere too)

(The following is written by Ruben Carranza, who once served as one of the commissioners of the Philippines’ Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) — the body tasked to recover the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth — under Haydee Yorac. He is now with the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice. This website (mainly, me) decided to post this “note” — that’s what he called it — after he uploaded  it on his Facebook page and brought me undeserved recognition by tagging me on the note, together with a couple of journalists, a congressman, and a senator, among others. By tagging me, he somewhat implied that he cares about what I think (although that could be a mistake.) In any case, since one good turn deserves another, here is his piece (links of which have not been attached because they are broken). Thanks, sir.)

I meant to write a longer note — partly for friends who know about the work we do on truth commissions at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and partly for colleagues working outside the Philippines whose own questions about President Benigno Aquino’s proposed Truth Commission have ranged from the flippant (“Another one?”) to the concerned (“Is the timing right?”). This is not that longer note, although it is in fact long.

In this note, I only want to clarify a few basic points about truth commissions, both ours as well as those that have been set up elsewhere, some of which are mentioned in this Newsbreak article and some of which are either less known or still the subject of debates among those working in the field of transitional justice.

These answers and notes are grounded on the work we have done at ICTJ — with past and present colleagues from South Africa, Peru, Sierra Leone, Timor Leste, Chile, and other countries where truth commissions have been established or are now being set up — and on my own work in those countries, as well as in the Philippines.

Perhaps this might even lead to a longer note, one that will deal with what President Aquino’s Truth Commission can or cannot do, and what Filipinos should or should not expect from it. But for now, just these short notes and answers —

1. How many truth commissions have there been?

Not that many. I assume that Newsbreak’s article relied on this website’s resources.

But that site, like many other academic or other published material on truth commissions rely significantly on (ICTJ co-founder) Priscilla Hayner’s groundbreaking book “Unspeakable Truths“.

It is a solidly-researched book by a colleague and I’m proud to have helped Priscilla as a resource for its 2nd edition, which just came out.

Priscilla covered forty (40) truth commissions when the book first came out; since then, more commissions — some of them named ‘truth commissions’, others called “truth and reconciliation commissions” (the first one that used ‘reconciliation’ was Chile, I think) — have been set up.

Was the Cory Aquino-created, Sen. Jose Diokno-led (and in which my Chair in the PCGG, Haydee Yorac, was a Commissioner) Presidential Commission on Human Rights (PCHR) a “truth commission”?

The Newsbreak writer may not have realized that when academics writing about transitional justice speak of a Philippine truth commission, they are referring to the PCHR.

Yes, the PCHR never issued a report.

Why? Some insights are in this link, quoting Glenda Ramirez, who did a great paper on truth commissions in the Philippines for NYU, in 2001, that unfortunately is no longer online. I won’t go into that here for now.

2. Do truth commissions work?

The fair question might be: do truth commissions do more than just attempt to seek the truth?

The function of a truth commission, in the frequently-quoted in the TJ field words of Michael Ignatieff* (the historian and Canadian politician — who is an example of how one can be a politician but still be useful as a human being) — is “to narrow the range of permissible lies” about a country’s past.

The new Philippine Justice Secretary cited South Africa’s TRC as a ‘model’ for the new Philippine truth commission; I can’t blame her for not having any other reference point.

The combination of Mandela-worship, Hollywood’s oversimplification of apartheid’s demise (a mixed-race rugby team and Morgan Freeman can only have a happy ending!), and the SA TRC’s focus on the impact of violence under apartheid on individual victims, rather than on what apartheid itself did to all black South Africans — has led to a feel-good picture of the South African truth-seeking experience.

So when Filipinos (and many others elsewhere) cite South Africa as a model for truth commissions, it might be the implicit message of racial harmony and ‘reconciliation’ that the story suggests.

Sadly, the story hasn’t ended.

Since South Africa’s TRC released its report in 2003, no one has actually been prosecuted seriously (let alone successfully) among perpetrators of human rights violations who did not avail of the amnesty-for-truth mechanism that the TRC offered (which is another feature that has skewed perceptions about what truth commissions do).

Despite the magnitude of apartheid-caused crimes, only 20,000 or so victims have been given compensation, not reparations, by the State at the fixed amount of around US$3000 each.

The white-owned and foreign corporations that profited from apartheid have not paid anything back, and most black South Africans remain in the impoverished majority.

Having said that, South Africa’s TRC did open the door to a wider discussion in the country about accountability, justice and reparations — goals that, arguably, can only be reached by standing on a foundation of truth that is not only official, but more importantly, impartial, rigorously-obtained and publicly disseminated and discussed.

3. If not South Africa’s, then what truth commission experience should we look at?

Ours, first of all.

In 1986, just a few days after the Marcos dictatorship was ousted, the first Aquino government created two commissions — one to address human rights violations, the other large-scale corruption — to establish the accountability of the officials of the Marcos dictatorship, beginning with the Marcos family.

This architecture for extracting accountability was, on hindsight and looking at the experiences of countries that have gone through brutal and corrupt dictatorships, a tactically correct decision and, even if unintended, a strategically important step.

The PCGG was created (through Executive Order No. 1) in February 1986 to prosecute Marcos and his cronies for large-scale corruption and to recover their ill-gotten wealth.

A few days later, Executive Order No. 8 was issued, creating a PCHR to investigate civil and political rights violations committed during the Marcos dictatorship, and to recommend the prosecution of perpetrators through the Justice Department.

By simultaneously but separately confronting both sets of crimes committed under and by the Marcos dictatorship, the first Aquino government would be able to not only hold perpetrators accountable for torture, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations — it could also remove the economic resources that the same perpetrators and their masterminds in the dictatorship controlled and used to maintain impunity.

Of course, neither Cory Aquino nor Senators Jovito Salonga and Jose Diokno — the first chairs of the PCGG and PCHR, respectively, could have known how fragile their post-dictatorship government was.

The PCHR was eventually transformed into the 1987 Constitution’s Commission on Human Rights, but now apparently without the power to look into pre-1987 Constitution violations.

The PCGG, on the other hand, lived on — but that, of course is another story that I can tell another time.

Chile perhaps?

Now compare this with similar situations elsewhere.

In Chile, two truth commissions were created years apart, the first looking only at killings and disappearances (the Rettig Commission) committed by the Augusto Pinochet regime and then later at torture and detention (the Valech Commission).

Rettig was a former Ambassador in the Salvador Allende government. Valech was a Catholic Bishop.

These commissions did identify victims and led to the creation of reparations programs for them, with health care for human rights victims still a continuing legacy of these commissions.

But they had no power to compel testimony, relying mainly on victim testimony or on security officials who volunteered to testify, and could not even name names of perpetrators.

But the Chilean commissions did not investigate corruption under Pinochet — who had by then created a myth of himself as a ‘clean dictator’.

The myth was only and finally broken a few years ago, when US Congress investigations of money laundering unearthed Pinochet accounts in a number of US banks, some of which eventually created trust funds for Pinochet’s victims.

But Pinochet himself died without ever being convicted of human rights violations as crimes or of corruption.

His widow and children have been investigated, but the charges were dismissed on appeal.

The obscure but interesting example of Chad Part of the obscurity is Chad itself — heard of now mainly because it is next to Sudan, close to Darfur. (Adding to the obscurity is the fact that the TC report is in French).

Hissen Habre has not been Chad’s only dictator, but he is the only one who might now be put on trial for abuses during his dictatorship, and the only one whom Chad’s truth commission found accountable for human rights violations AND corruption as well.

The Chad TC actually published a list of names of Habre regime officials who committed both, and recommended to the post-Habre government the removal from office of those who were in the list. It took over a decade, but yes, the post-Habre government did in fact remove these officials.

Habre himself may be tried (in Senegal, if not in Belgium) for war crimes and HR violations, using the principle of universal jurisdiction over such crimes.

Peru after Fujimori and Indonesia post-Suharto both tried to go after corruption and human rights violations committed by those dictators.

Peru convicted Fujimori and recovered a (small) part of his assets.

Suharto died without ever being charged of, and his assets remain with his children.

Peru had a truth commission that then recommended criminal charges against Fujimori.

Indonesia had a truth commission law that, when challenged in court, was conveniently declared unconstitutional by a pliant Indonesian high court.

That there is a regional human rights court in Latin America helped in Peru.

Which might offer some promise of what is possible with the new ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.

Look at what is going on in Kenya I’m doing work on Kenya at the moment and it is an example of a country attempting — like we have previously and might be about to again — to apply a ‘truth commission’ approach to economic crimes and human rights violations committed across several regimes.

The Kenya TJRC (“J” for Justice) is like a Philippine TC that will look at all the regimes we’ve had — from Marcos to Arroyo.

Unfortunately, Kenya’s TJRC is headed by a former official linked to a regime’s land-grabbing record.

(Which, I should say here, is far, far different from whatever questions have been raised about former CJ Davide’s fitness to head the Filipino commission.)

But there is no doubt among Kenyans that their truth commission has to deal with both sets of abuses. This is not their first attempt at this, too.

In 2003, a similar commission was proposed, but was never set up.

What adds a different context to Kenya, though, is the fact that the International Criminal Court is also looking at a smaller set of perpetrators (of violence during elections held 2 years ago) for possible indictment.

Kenya is a party to the ICC treaty — the Philippines is not.

(And then there’s R.A. 9851 The ratification of the Rome Statute is a step that needs to be pushed in the Senate by the new President. Even if ratification doesn’t have a retroactive effect, we now have R.A. 9851, shepherded by Rep. Erin Tanada in the previous Congress, which legislates the provisions of the Rome Statute and makes crimes under the ICC’s jurisdiction also criminal under Philippine law. The alleged extrajudicial killings that have taken place in the first few days of the new Aquino administration, or any similar crimes that might be committed hereon not only by Philippine State security forces but by armed political movements including the New People’s Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) can be prosecuted under this law. If we ratify the ICC treaty AND the Philippine legal system is either unable or unwilling to hold perpetrators of these crimes accountable, there can be recourse to the ICC.)

4. So should truth commissions investigate BOTH corruption and human rights violations?

I actually published an article for the International Journal of Transitional Justice (IJTJ) on this very question.

The article is Plunder and Pain: Should Transitional Justice Engage With Corruption and Economic Crimes” (link to which is broken or unable to be accessed at time of posting) and should address the more detailed questions of how another Philippine truth commission — and one that might potentially engage with both plunder and pain — might go about doing so. I’ll end this here for now.

From the Name-Dropping Dept. Just happened to finish reading an essay of Michael Ignatieff entitled Deficits in Granta 27, Summer 1989 issue which carried the theme Death. About ten years ago, I wrote a review of Asya, a novel he wrote. A copy of the book and the review I wrote have disappeared (probably for a good reason).

Risks of Aquino’s straight path

(Jack The Scribbler is pleased to announce its first contribution: An analysis piece published in the Manila Times by its business editor, Arnold S. Tenorio. Arnold, an MBA graduate of the University of the Philippines’ College of Business Administration, deserves a wider audience since he’s one of the Philippines’ lesser-known but intelligent business journalists. And I say that because he’s not charging me anything for this piece, save probably for a few beers.)


In a press conference held shortly after Congress proclaimed him the Philippines’ 15th president, Benigno Aquino 3rd made a slip-up that would haunt his leadership for the next six years.

President Aquino said that unemployment data understated reality because they excluded people not seeking work.

Anyone familiar with the National Statistics Office lexicon — which adopts the International Labor Organization standard — knows that people not seeking work have been counted among the unemployed for the past five years.

Granted an economics degree hardly makes one an expert.

But unlike his mother — the late Corazon “Cory” Aquino who was thrust onto the political stage after the assassination of her husband — the President has opted to lead the life of a professional politician for the past 12 years.

During his nine years in Congress and three years in the Senate, Mr. Aquino served in the committees of trade and industry, and of banks and financial institutions — giving him ample opportunity to learn the country’s official statistics.

Beset by bickering

The President’s gaffe showed that like his mother, the presidency under him would likely be beset by bickering, as key allies entertain the idea of knowing better than their accidental leader.

Like his mother, Mr. Aquino was pushed to seek the highest office in the land largely because of the strong marketing appeal of a political symbol: Cory as the unimposing wife of a martyred opposition leader back in 1986; the 15th President as the unblemished son of two icons of democracy.

Like his mother, Noynoy won the presidency by tapping the majority’s disgust with the perceived corruption of the Arroyo government.

Beyond this criticism of the status quo, Mr. Aquino, as Cory back then, stood for little else.

His diverse political support — running from left to right of the ideological spectrum — indicates his allies also have nothing more binding them beyond their revulsion toward the Arroyo government.

That he secured the support of Big Business and a section of the country’s intelligentsia is owed partly to running mate Sen. Manuel Roxas 2nd, an Ivy League graduate and advocate of economic orthodoxy.

During the campaign, Mr. Aquino made no secret of his deference to Roxas when it comes to the economy.

Break rank
But Roxas’ defeat to former Mayor Jejomar Binay of Makati City, who enjoyed the support of a section of the Aquino family, has emboldened the latter group to break rank from erstwhile allies.

As key supporters wash their dirty linen in public, Mr. Aquino’s presidency risks becoming a parody of his mother’s administration, which was plagued by struggles between left and right-wing supporters.

To be sure, a string of coups similar to those that rocked Cory’s presidency does not loom on the horizon, especially since the ringleaders of military misadventures during the former administration have all but embraced the electoral process, including one faction that threw its lot with the incumbent President.

Popular disenchantment with the polls does not exist, with the huge voter turnout showing that elections remain the preferred mode of replacing leaders.

Economy in better shape

The economy also is in better shape now than when Cory assumed the presidency.

The economic conditions facing her son are far from dire, with the Philippines faring better than its neighbors after narrowly escaping a recession last year.

The impact of the global crisis had been alleviated by government and election-related spending, with the domestic economy rebounding strongly in the first quarter of this year.

Recent official data — rising money supply, resilient remittances, and growing exports — point to the Philippines sustaining its growth momentum in the second quarter.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) officials have reveled in the absence of external payments crises over the past six years, with the country’s balance of payments intact despite the recent global financial turmoil.

Catch-all remedy

Beyond the absence of the political and economic bases for extra-constitutional dissent, many Filipinos saw their hopes raised by the victory of a candidate for president who proffered a catch — all remedy to their misery: Without corruption, poverty would end.

For a low-key scion of a wealthy family to enjoy a wide margin of votes over a popular second-runner such as former President Joseph Estrada is owed to more than just the moral overtones of Mr. Aquino’s campaign.

His campaign’s deft appeal to the deep religiosity of Filipinos was most evident in the then candidate for president’s final TV ad urging voters to opt for his straight path, not the crooked one laid down ostensibly by the former administration.

Expectations consequently ran high that the new government would improve the people’s condition. Whether the new President can deliver is another matter.

Uneasy alliance

During his inaugural speech, Mr. Aquino admitted that the road ahead is difficult.

His first year in office will indicate which faction in the President’s support base would have to go.

Given the diametrically opposed views on economic reform held by key allies, the new administration would likely suffer its first blood-letting when it takes on the urgent task of ensuring the country’s recovery from the global crisis.

For underneath the very public wrangling for credit on who brought the most to Mr. Aquino’s successful campaign is a more fundamental policy difference among supporters.

His straightforward campaign slogan hides an uneasy alliance between those who opt for huge social spending to eliminate poverty, and those who fear that such tack would unsettle the sound macroeconomic fundamentals already laid down by the former government.

Cracks to grow bigger
The President’s insistent refusal to raise taxes despite the contrary view held by the country’s foremost economists may please both strong-state and neo-liberal supporters in the near term.

But when the time comes to foot the bill, the cracks in the Aquino administration are likely to grow bigger.

The challenge of rebuilding the economy after the worst global financial crisis in decades, two deadly typhoons, and a prolonged dry spell point to the need to keep the public tap flowing.

In a symbolic break from the previous administration, the new government announced it was ditching its predecessor’s balanced-budget goal in favor of “managing” the fiscal deficit by raising the tax effort.

Having sworn against additional levies, the Aquino government is anchoring its revenue generation on pursuing smugglers and tax cheats, on top of administrative measures aimed at tightening collection.

Estimates of any windfall from these initiatives, however, come close to meeting only half of the expected budget deficit for this year.

Zero-base budgeting
The new government is also toying with the idea of instituting zero-base budgeting in a veiled attempt to reduce overall spending by limiting expenditures to priority programs and projects.

This entails redoing the budget proposal drafted during the previous administration, and risks a clash with a legislature that is used to dispensing the national spending bill as largesse.

A more dangerous proposal is to rechannel the proceeds of state asset sales to profit-making sectors. This is a roundabout way of enlarging the state’s presence in the market, and would undo more than two decades of privatization.

Financing the huge social spending requirements through borrowings also has its limits.

On the international front, Europe’s own debt crisis has unsettled financial markets worldwide, threatening another credit crunch.

In the domestic market, it remains to be seen whether liquidity would be ample, especially as businesses crank up borrowing to take advantage of record-low interest rates and to build up capacity.

This early, the private sector is asking the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to lift its single-borrowers’ limit on banks, thus signaling robust business appetite for funds.

Serious loss of face

The resilience of remittance-led consumer spending points to this pillar of growth as a source of additional funds for pump priming.

Raising taxes is the path of least resistance as far as revenue generation is concerned, but doing this would result in a serious loss of face for the President, eroding the goodwill that he earned during the electoral campaign.

This brings us to a second key issue his government must face: What to do with the former administration’s perceived corruption, given Mr. Aquino’s campaign promise to go after graft starting at the top.

Recent history is replete with lessons on how not to pursue one’s predecessor.

The previous administration sowed social strife when it prosecuted Estrada, while Cory’s attempt to deliver justice to martial-aw victims also ended in failure.

Distaste for corruption

Mr. Aquino’s key supporters may share a distaste for the perceived corruption of the previous administration.

But not everyone who backed him may agree on how and when to deal with this matter.

Unlike Estrada who was driven out of power, former President Gloria Arroyo has secured a seat in the House of Representatives — a toehold on power that she can use to parry the new government.

A policy of vindictiveness would roil Congress, distracting it from the task of securing economic recovery.

This in turn risks eroding business confidence, and wasting the country’s rare opportunity to have emerged from the global crisis relatively unscathed and ahead of its neighbors.

Equivocation on the issue of corruption, however, is equally fraught with risks.

Inaction would derail the President from his avowed straight path and dash the people’s newfound hope for meaningful change.

Censored thoughts on the Makati prayer rally


I WAS supposed to write something utterly serious and totally incendiary—a blog entry demanding that certain segments of the population, including the military, should already move to lessen—temporarily or otherwise—the Arroyo government’s hold on political power.
Except that I didn’t say it in those words.
And I am not about to clarify what I mean, citing various rights to protect myself, including my reputation as a person who, depending on circumstances, occasionally lacks the courage of his convictions.
According to a friend of mine—a left-leaning, human-rights lawyer-slash-advocate—had I expressed my anti-government sentiments clearly and publicly, the Arroyo regime may go through the trouble of filing criminal charges against me, especially with the renewed vigor of a Justice Secretary who got himself a new kidney.
But then again, I may be thinking too highly of myself.
After all, I can hardly be called a dissident.
I stop at red lights, I fall in line, and I shower twice a day, although I have forgotten to brush my teeth.
I am not about to disclose my true feelings about this whole state of affairs, at least not in this blog, which is still considered public, despite its few visitors.
So, instead of risking what may yet appear to be a serious lapse in my judgement, in so far as blogging is concerned, I decided to sublimate my so-called fiery passions and participate in last Friday’s Makati rally.
At the last moment, my wife later agreed to join me, since she considered it a good time as any to visit Makati, a city which she only gets to see less than six times a year, if at all (not necessarily a bad thing).
Suffice it to say that there are better ways of spending a Friday payday than attending a Makati prayer rally with a multitude of people.
Except that we both agreed to put up with the inconvenience and the extra expense of going to the Philippines’ premier financial hub, if only to show our solidarity with people who believe, as we do, that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should be removed from office.
During our short stay at the corner of Ayala and Paseo de Roxas, we even coughed up P100 for a whistle and a sticker calling for transparency and accountability in the whole fraud-tainted, overpriced national broadband agreement. Proceeds from the sticker sale would go to a sanctuary fund currently used for the day to day expenses of Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, a witness who claims that Comelec Commissioner Benjamin Abalos will earn some $130 million in return for services rendered.
We remain doubtful that our measly financial contribution and
our participation in the rally would, in any way, help convince Arroyo to step down.
But as Filipinos who intend to see a better country—a Philippines run by right-thinking, articulate, intelligent, professional men and women—we will continue to aid those struggling for good government, no matter how bleak nor desperate it has now become.


Photo above shows my friends selling stickers and whistles for Lozada’s sanctuary fund during the Makati rally Friday.

A reader's lament

Sna Miguel Corp logo UCPB logo

A review of “Long and tortuous road to coconut levy recovery” by Romeo C. Royandoyan
Published by Centro Saka Inc. (Philippine Center for Rural Development Studies)
Copyright 2007

NO question about it: Romeo “Omi” C. Royandoyan has done a lot to advance the cause of the Filipino coconut farmer.
Currently the executive director of Centro Saka Inc. (CSI), a non-government group which, among others, undertakes rural development studies, Royandoyan was among the farmer-representatives appointed to the board of the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), thanks to court decisions which ruled that the lender was acquired using funds collected from coconut farmers.
Since farmers technically owned the bank—assets bought using their funds were therefore theirs—they were entitled to representation at the bank’s board, which, in turn, was made possible by the courts and the Presidential Commission on Good Government under the late great Haydee Yorac, shortly after Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was swept to power in January 2001.
Although Royandoyan, together with fellow farmer rep Jose Ma. “Joey” Faustino, was later removed from the board—presidents are entitled to change their minds especially regarding Marcos cronies—his commitment has never wavered.
To this day, Royandoyan, Faustino, former general Virgilio David (who was brave enough to expose the coco levy scam during the Marcos dictatorship), and many others remain committed to see that the funds collected from farmers are used for their benefit.
After all, coconut farmers have suffered more than enough.
Besides being forced to pay for heavy levies which amounted to P9.6 billion (as of a 1986 audit), coconut farmers have never benefitted from these taxes.
Instead, through a series of complex arrangements which transferred public funds for private ownership, the levies were unlawfully used by Marcos crony Eduardo “Danding” C. Cojuangco Jr. to buy a bank (i. e. UCPB) and acquire a controlling stake—anywhere from 47 to 51 percent—in San Miguel Corporation (SMC), the Philippines’ largest food company.
Although coconut farmers have won significant legal victories against Cojuangco—in May 2007, the courts allowed the partial sale of UCPB and SMC shares, proceeds of which will be held in trust by the government for the farmers—they still remain uncertain when their protracted struggle will end.
Like any other oppressed, disenfranchised, and marginalized group in this country, coconut farmers and their interests are easily ignored, no thanks to a powerful, influential, and moneyed class whose intentions almost always run contrary to the greater good.
This is probably why Royandoyan decided to author a book about the contentious, complicated coconut levy issue: to let the whole world know about what is perhaps one of the biggest scams in Philippine history, perpetrated by one of the most powerful and influential Marcos cronies.
Entitled “Long and Tortuous Road to Coconut Levy Recovery,” the book, published this year, is the very first volume in what appears to be the CSI’s Rural Development Review series.
However, despite its numerous potentials for dramatic storytelling, the book reads like an academic paper.
Which is not flattering at all.
Nor does it help the coconut farmers’ cause.
Had it been written with the regular reader in mind—regular reader here defined as someone who knows absolutely nothing about the issue—the book could have had more chances of generating support for the farmers. In turn, more support could mean more pressure for government to set things straight, underscoring once more the power of the written word; a power properly harnessed by those who sought to change the world.
Unfortunately, of the book’s 184 pages, only a handful of passages
can be considered as powerful.
Rife with legalese, punctuated by vague sentences, the book’s text drastically lacks in narrative what it offers in the way of substance.
Which is unfortunate.
Instead of interpreting, laymanizing, and contextualizing the many legal and technical concepts surrounding the coconut levy cases—there are eight of them in all, one of which involves an attempt at acquiring a stake in Pepsi Cola—the book in its own obtuse way merely replicates whatever the courts have said, possibly contributing to the readers’ confusion.
Nevertheless, Royandoyan’s book—and CSI’s efforts to such work publicly available—represents an important step towards documenting what may very well be one of the largest crimes in Philippine history.