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Humps and Bumps In The Search For Truth

August 2, 2010


“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
This could very well be the aphorism which critics of President Noynoy Aquino’s Executive Order No. 1 feel is operative.
Already there are those who are deriding the Truth Commission being headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. as “a toothless tiger.”
There are legal practitioners who are more stridently saying that E.O. 1 is “constitutionally infirm.”

House Minority leader Edcel Lagman:

The establishment of the Truth Commission may be constitutionally infirm for the following reasons — the creation and funding of offices and commissions is a legislative power of Congress and, consequently, the Truth Commission cannot be constituted by mere executive fiat; the equal protection clause of the Constitution may be violated by targeting a specific group of officials for investigation; and the Truth Commission duplicates the constitutional mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman as well as the statutory jurisdiction of the Department of Justice.

Perhaps emblematic of view is that posted on line by U.S.-based Fil-Am lawyer Benjamin Cardinez who points out:
The commission’s specific purpose is to investigate and “find the truth” about reported cases of graft and corruption allegedly committed under the previous administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, his predecessor. Based on pronouncements by the president himself and his political allies, the main target of this investigation is the unpopular former president who is now an elected representative of Pampanga. “
“…The constitutional infirmities of President Aquino’s Executive Order No.1 not only lie on the apparently impermissible invasion of the ombudsman’s turf. It’s expressed primary objective of going after individuals perceived to have committed wrongdoings “in the previous administration” may be assailable under the equal protection clause of the constitution. If anything, this unreasonable and clearly selective limitation of its application to a particular group of suspects betrays an overriding purpose of “nailing” the former president.
The president’s distrust of the current ombudsman is of public knowledge. As an appointee of the former president and a close political ally, she remains, in the eyes of the president’s circle of advisers, a hindrance to the former president’s indictment and prosecution. They have to find a way to eliminate her from the equation, although they are evidently aware that the final decision on whether or not to prosecute, or evaluate the commission’s findings, is with the ombudsman. Be that as it may, it would seem that, desperate as they are, they have calculated that by subjecting the former president to intense, hostile investigation and coming up with a recommendation to prosecute, whether or not given due course by the ombudsman eventually, they would have gained considerable political points with the gullible public. They would also, in addition, pacify the bloodthirsty in the anti-GMA crowd who are salivating for revenge.
(Read in full here:
Atty. Cardinez drives home some solid points.
I have to particularly share his opinion that E.O. 1 “may be assailable under the equal protection clause of the Constitution.”
On the matter of E.O 1’s constitutionality, President Noynoy is encouraging detractors to bring it on.

(http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=598920&publicationSubCategoryId=63)

No doubt the SC (while embroiled in the scandal over its allegedly plagiarized ruling on the plea of Filipina comfort women) is the proper forum to determine E.O. 1’s legality.
Methinks it’s in anticipation of such questions that the President’s legal triumvirate (Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Ed De Mesa, Justice Secretary Leila Delima, and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa) framed the creation of the Truth Commission in the ambit of the Office of the President with its fact finding mission time-bound for completion in two years’ time.
It’s likewise clear that the TC’s output is mandated for submission to the presumably ‘responsible and honorable’  Office of the Ombudsman:
SECTION 2. Powers and Functions. – The Commission, which shall have all the powers of an investigative body under Section 37, Chapter 9, Book I of the Administrative Code of 1987, is primarily tasked to conduct a thorough fact-finding investigation of reported cases of graft and corruption referred to in Section 1, involving third level public officers and higher, their co-principals, accomplices and accessories from the private sector, if any, during the previous administration and thereafter submit its finding and recommendations to the President, Congress and the Ombudsman. In particular, it shall:
a)      Identify and determine the reported cases of such graft and corruption which it will investigate;
b)      Collect, receive, review and evaluate evidence related to or regarding the cases of large scale corruption which it has chosen to investigate, and to this end require any agency, official or employee of the Executive Branch, including government-owned or controlled corporations, to produce documents, books, records and other papers;
c)      Upon proper request or representation, obtain information and documents from the Senate and the House of Representatives records of investigations conducted by committees thereof relating to matters or subjects being investigated by the Commission;
d)      Upon proper request and representation, obtain information from the courts, including the Sandiganbayan and the Office of the Court Administrator, information or documents in respect to corruption cases filed with the Sandiganbayan or the regular courts, as the case may be;
e)      Invite or subpoena witnesses and take their testimonies and for that purpose, administer oaths or affirmations as the case may be;
So the buck still stops with the Ombudsman.
Simply said, you know who’s classmate, Atty. Merceditas Gutierrez has the golden opportunity to stop sitting on her ass and redeem a measure of public respect and credibility in the time she last left as she also faces the impeachment complaint against her.
The onus is equally on Justice Davide.

http://atmidfield.com/2010/07/01/truth-seeking-politics-and-former-cj-hilario-davide-jr/

As for my friend, Atty. ‘bencard’, for this legal eagle to call the Filipino public “gullible” is a ‘bit much’, as Britons would say.
Methinks that perhaps my ‘friend’ should consider presenting himself as a friend of the Court when E.O.1’s constitutionality and present his learned thoughts in the proper forum.
A public service that would be, Atty. Ben.
Your move, people.
POSTSCRIPT
The truth being a most valued commodity, it would be worthwhile to digress from this points main topic  a bit o read Vergel Santos’ take on the SC DECISION PLAGIARISM SCANDAL here:

http://bworldonline.com/main/content.php?id=15135

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