, September 30, 2005
(OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) Still smarting from the intensive grilling of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales that landed him in the hospital, Malacanang maintained today that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has prerogative to allow or not to allow senior government officials, including members of the armed services, from appearing before any congressional investigation "in aid of legislation."

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye said in a statement that congressional investigations, which are purportedly "in aid of legislation," have been wanting in terms of tangible benefits. He said the Filipinos’ collective experience has shown that, with very few exceptions, these investigations served no other purpose than to damage the reputations of those who agree to appear before congressional probe panels. He pointed out that people who agree to testify before these investigations as resource persons end up being "persecuted as though they are guilty of unsubstantiated charges."

Bunye was reacting to criticisms of Executive Order 464 issued by the President directing senior government officials to secure authorization from her before they can testify in congressional probes. Malacanang said EO 464 is designed to keep Congress from abusing its oversight powers to advance certain personal or political agenda.

Covered by the executive order are senior officials of the Executive departments, military officials and flag officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, key Philippine National Police officials, senior national security officials, and other officials as determined by the President.

"Public servants who dedicate their lives to their country deserve to carry out their duties without fear of persecution," Bunye said in his statement.

Aside from the executive privilege, the President also invoked the strict observance of the constitutionally-guaranteed principles of separation of powers and respect for the right of officials appearing in legislative inquiries. Obviously not expecting that he would be subjected to hours of intensive questioning by members of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee last week on the Venable lobby contract, Gonzales was taken from the Senate hearing room directly to the Philippine Heart Center, where he is undergoing cardiac-related treatment, and possible heart surgery.

Malacanang has invoked executive privilege as it defended Gonzales refusal to disclose sensitive information on the Venable contract during his appearance before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

"The rule on executive privilege is rooted in the principle of separation of powers of the co-equal branches of government. It exempts responsible officials from disclosing sensitive information," Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

PGMA upholds AFP sanctions on two marine officers FROM OFFICE OF PRESS SECRETARY, MALACANANG, September 30, 2005

Malacanang has upheld the decision of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) leadership to sack two Marine officers who defied a direct order from their superiors and imposed court martial proceedings on them.

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as AFP Commander-in-Chief, has upheld the sanctions of the AFP leadership "in the name of military discipline and obedience to the chain of command."

The military on Wednesday sacked Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani and Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan for disobeying a direct order from their superior officers when they testified at the Senate’s hearing on wiretapping. Gudani is deputy superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy, while Balutan is assistant commandant of the PMA Corps of Cadets.

Aside from being relieved of their posts at PMA, they will also have to face court martial proceedings. Gudani and Balutan were allegedly staunch and active supporters of the political opposition during the 2004 elections.

"The use of the uniform for partisan politics shall be severely sanctioned," Bunye stressed.

The Press Secretary also said Malacanang would not dignify the allegations raised by Gudani and Balutan even as he stressed that the issue on electoral fraud had already been resolved following the junking of the impeachment complaint by the House of Representatives on Sept. 6. "The issue of electoral fraud, as far as we are concerned, had already been resolved and laid to rest following the junking of the impeachment complaint," Bunye said.

The House voted 158-51 to junk the impeachment complaint.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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