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The Legal Education Board and the Philippine Association of Law Professors conducted a seminar entitled, “Enhancing the Teaching Competencies of Professors of Law,” last February 11, 2011 at the Bayview Park Hotel in Manila. LEB Chairman former Supreme Court Justice Hilarion L. Aquino and PALP President Professor Venecio S. Flores led the seminar attended by more than two hundred law deans and professors from all over the country.

The lecturers of the seminar were CHED Chief of Legal Affairs Director Carmelita Yadao, PhD, San Beda School of Law Dean Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, Lyceum College of Law Dean Soledan Mawis, Ateneo de Manila School of Law Dean Cesar Villanueva and De la Salle College of Law Dean Jose Manuel Diokno. Ateneo Dean Villanueva’s presentation was the most listened to considering the current Supreme Court policy of using multiple choice questions (MCQs) in the bar exams.

Dean Villanueva stated that there are merits and perceived disadvantages to MCQs. He said that MCQs are “effective in assessing variety of learning outcomes and various levels of understanding, ease in scoring MCQ, and less susceptible that “True or False” to likelihood of guessing.” As for the perceived disadvantages, Dean Villanueva stated that MCQs are “difficult to prepare and take more time to construct; they encourage “memorization” of the official bank of MCQs on a given area or discipline of Law; in the Ateneo Law experience, they tend to have “disastrous” results; It is alleged rather serious, that MCQ format in either the Bar Examinations or in law school setting, does not develop the “skills” and “intellectual capacities” most essential to a good lawyer.”

Accordingly, the classic construct of an MCQ involves a stem, which presents a question or an incomplete statement, a single correct or best answer and distracters. Dean Villanueva said “in the field of law, the Stem provides the one particular area of the Law where you want the examinee to concentrate his thoughts and analysis.” It must be “succinct, clearly constructed, with all words relevant to the task.”

It will be interesting how the 2011 Bar Exams will turn out. My view is that MCQs will just make the bar exams more difficult than usual. In the long run, it will be beneficial to the barristers and examiners. As  Supreme Court Associate Justice Roberto Abad wrote in his manual, “Preparing for the 2011 Bar Exams and Beyond,” MCQs can facilitate the easy and objective correction of exams. For that alone, it is worthy experiment to undertake in order to spare the barristers the agony of waiting for one year to find out if they will become lawyers or not.

*Minnie Osmena

I had a brief conversation recently with Madam Minnie Osmena, the sister of Congressman Tomas Osmena and Senator Sergio Osmena. In behalf of those that benefitted from the scholarship she instituted in Harvard University, I expressed our gratitude to her for making our lives better while dealing with the scholarly demands of our professor. Many of the beneficiaries of her fund have returned to the Philippines and served the country. Philippine Army Colonel Carlos Quita and Presidential Management Staff Julia Abad are the more known beneficiaries of her scholarship fund.

She expressed her wish that wealthy Filipinos continue to establish such scholarship funds in many prestigious universities in the world.

*Jail Visits

I recently had a conversation with Father Manoling Francisco, SJ, a mentor and a good friend to all of his Saint Campion 1992 class of the Ateneo de Zamboanga High School. He has been busy doing apostolic work with the inmates at the Muntilupa Correctional facility. At the same time, he attends to the other needs of the inmates. Fr. Mano, as he is known to his students, have been an inspiration to all of us in his service of humanity.


ARMM: Will there be elections in 2011?

The main political lesson in Muslim Mindanao is this – what the Philippine President wants, the Philippine President gets.

In the February 11, 2011 press release of the Office of the President titled, “Aquino to ask help of Manila Water concessionaires for Sulu’s water woes,” it was written “The President said he had been told that the budget given directly to the ARMM government is at P12 billion a year and “yet many officials here complain they get nothing in the form of support or services. Where are the funds going then,” he asked. He said he has asked government auditors to look into the books of ARMM and found at least P1 billion in questionable transactions.”

*Oil and Food


The latest startling revelation to come via documents leaked to Julian Assange's muckraking website and published by The Guardian should give pause to every suburban SUV-driver: U.S. officials think Saudi Arabia is overpromising on its capacity to supply oil to a fuel-thirsty world. That sets up a scenario, the documents show, whereby the Saudis could dramatically underdeliver on output by as soon as next year, sending fuel prices soaring.
The cables detail a meeting between a U.S. diplomat and Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration for Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, in November 2007. Husseini told the American official that the Saudis are unlikely to keep to their target oil output of  12.5 million barrels per day output in order to keep prices stable. Husseini also indicated that Saudi producers are likely to hit "peak oil" -- the point at which global output hit its high mark -- as early as 2012. That means, in essence, that it will be all downhill from there for the enormous Saudi oil industry.

"According to al-Husseini, the crux of the issue is twofold. First, it is possible that Saudi reserves are not as bountiful as sometimes described, and the timeline for their production not as unrestrained as Aramco and energy optimists would like to portray," one of the cables reads. "While al-Husseini fundamentally contradicts the Aramco company line, he is no doomsday theorist. His pedigree, experience and outlook demand that his predictions be thoughtfully considered."



JAKARTA - Indonesia on Wednesday aimed to lift its rice stockpiles by a third as it struggles to fight food inflation, though steady buying by top importer the Philippines and a bumper crop from top exporter Thailand may ease market pressure.

Traders said other governments in the region and further afield may also look to increase stocks despite ample supplies in Thailand and No. 2 exporter Vietnam to quell food inflation.

"Rising supply from the world's top two exporters is likely to weigh prices down. However, there could be steady demand from traditional buyers such as the Middle East, African countries and demand elsewhere in Asia that could help support prices," said Kiattisak Kallayasirivat of trading firm Novel Agritrade.

Thai rice rose to $545 per tonne from last week's $540 per tonne on the back of loading demand after exporters committed last month to sell 820,000 tonnes of rice to Indonesia.

Indonesia asked state procurement agency Bulog to lift rice imports to 2 million tonnes on Wednesday, which followed the country surprising markets last month by buying five times as much rice as expected, while the Philippines also on Wednesday said it may import less than 1 million tonnes planned this year despite a recommendation from a government agency to go above that level.

Benchmark Thai 100% B grade white rice prices RI-THWHB-P1 are likely to rise to $550 a tonne by the end of February and $567.5 a tonne in March from around $540 a tonne now, given expectations of additional orders from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, according to a Reuters poll.
But rice has lagged other staple grains last year, falling 13% while corn and wheat surged 50%. Rice prices have only gained 2% this year and are far below a record $1,050 a tonne hit in 2008.

Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao sees Thai white rice rising into a range of $630-$673 per tonne over the next three months

Even at that level however, supplies of CBOT rough rice , now trading around $313.5 a tonne, are unlikely to flow heavily into Asia as local grades are preferred.

Still, perceived panic buying by governments as global food prices have climbed to record highs in recent months on shrinking supplies of wheat, corn and oilseeds has kept the market watchful.

Indonesia surprised markets last month by buying nearly five times as much rice as expected, and then suspended rice import duties in a move that signalled it could look to stockpile more.

Growing Asian demand and speculation over panic buying has already pushed prices for the grain higher, adding to inflation that hit a 21-month high of 7% in Indonesia last month, though Thailand and Vietnam are poised to see new harvests.

Indonesia's government met to discuss food security on Wednesday and chief economic minister Hatta Rajasa said it would gradually lift stockpiles from a current 1.5 million tonnes, underlining its fears over shortages leading to price spikes.

Food price inflation led the central bank to hike interest rates last week for the first time in two years, and protests over food prices were seen as a major factor in the ousting of Indonesia's long-term autocratic ruler Suharto in 1998.

New crops

Other traders said rice prices could drop in the coming weeks on increased supply because Vietnam, the world's second biggest rice exporter, is due to start harvesting its major winter-spring rice crop by end-February.

Vietnam's winter-spring rice crop accounts for around 48% of the country's total rice production of around 39-40 million tonnes and most of the output are for exports.

"Prices will fall in March as there are no more government deals while the Philippines has not detailed its importing plan but it may buy less than last year," a trader said.

Thailand is also about to start harvesting its second crop, expected to be around 9.5 million tonnes, the highest ever and well above 8.8 million tonnes last year.

Indonesia's own harvest will start in March, when it sees prices starting to ease and imports are not allowed to avoid damaging farmer earnings. The country said it had already secured 1.33 million tonnes of imports by December.

Indonesia has set a target to produce 69 million tonnes of unmilled rice this year, up from 65 million tonnes in 2010.

Its import buying is a turnaround from minimal purchases last year and shows efforts by Southeast Asia's biggest economy to be self-sufficient in the staple have not succeeded.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called on people to start planting food at home, and told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the next economic war could be over the race for scarce resources, due to growing populations.

By contrast in the Philippines, policymakers appear not to be overtly worried about rising food costs -- the central bank is expected to leave policy rates unchanged at a record low on Thursday, and has said there is no evidence that commodity prices are spilling over into the broader economy.
The country may buy less than 1 million tonnes of rice this year despite a government panel recommendation for a higher purchase volume, with forecasts of a good first quarter crop, a government official said on Wednesday.

Early rains this year have helped rice crops and along with hefty stockpiles from previous years' imports, gives Manila -- the world's biggest buyer in recent years -- room to buy less than the record 2.45 million tonnes it purchased last year.

"We are preventing over-importation because our farmers will be disadvantaged," said agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala.
*Sulu Sultan

Liew: What Sulu Sultan?

Kota Kinabalu: Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk V.K. Liew said the Government will never recognise any self-proclaimed Sultan.

He said while it is of no constitutional significance, it is however confusing and that steps must be taken to address perceptions on such matters.
Liew, who is also in charge of the country's law reform exercise, said that while under the Penal Code it is an offence to impersonate a public officer, "however it is debatable if it includes impersonating a Sultan".

"Throughout the years we have had many jokers claiming to be descendants of sultans of this sultanate or that sultanate and in Sabah, this is not an isolated case. It has also happened in Melaka," he said, when contacted for comments Tuesday.

Liew was on the way back after attending the Commonwealth Law Conference in India.

A news portal, Sabah Kini, had reported that a Malaysian businessman and former ISA detainee, Datu Mohd Akjan Ali Muhammad, had been proclaimed as the new Sulu Sultan - the third such claim by competing groups within two months.

Meanwhile, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President Datuk Yong Teck Lee said that if the Malaysian Government does nothing to stop such flagrant violation of Malaysia's sovereignty over Sabah, then Sabahans will begin to wonder what it means to be a Malaysian.

He said the fact that there are innumerable claimants to the Sulu sultanate is public knowledge.

"But to have a joker by the name of Akjan Ali to install himself in a self-styled coronation in Sabah as Sultan of Sulu is a direct and no-joke challenge to Malaysia's sovereignty over Sabah and an insult to our Malaysian Sultans and Sabah Head of State.

"This so-called 'Sultan of Sulu', complete with a 'Prime Minister' of a government-in-exile expect people of Sulu descent to pledge loyalty to him, and not to our Malaysian Agong, our constitution and nation.

"The security implications are obvious and serious," he said in a statement.

Yong, a former Chief Minister, added that in 1995 or 1996, Akjan and several other Umno operatives were detained under the Internal Security Act for manufacturing fake identity cards.

"I need say no more about this person except that Akjan is an active Umno member.

What is Umno going to do about him?" He asked.

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