SEPTEMBER 29, 2006 (STAR) The Philippines might withdraw as signatory of the United Nations Second Optional Protocol in the event the 1987 Constitution is amended to reimpose the death penalty law.

Ranking officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines presented a very good image before the UN when it signed the protocol that prohibits state signatories from reintroducing the death penalty.

Officials, however, pointed out the possibility of amending the Constitution which might succeed and reintroduce capital punishment.

They said the change of the Constitution would entirely defeat the purpose of signing the Protocol.

Officials said the signing of the protocol is a "significant advance in Philippines’ human rights practice and it is a benchmark of international law."

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo signed the Second Optional Protocol in behalf of the Philippine government at the UN headquarters in New York last week.

Romulo said the Philippines binds itself before the world against imposing capital punishment.

He said President Arroyo has always upheld the sanctity of human life by imposing a moratorium on executions.

The repeal of the death penalty law and the signing of the Protocol also came as a fulfillment of the Philippines’ pledge as founding member of the newly established UN Human Rights Counsel based in Geneva. The Philippines has a seat in the Counsel until 2007.

The Protocol makes it mandatory for the signatory country to move against reimposing the capital punishment.

DFA officials earlier expressed the signing of the Protocol does not need the concurrence of the Senate but a presidential ratification. — Pia Lee-Brago

Palace wants to gag Defensor By Aurea Calica The Philippine Star 09/28/2006

Malacañang wants to gag presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor since most of his pronouncements do not jibe with those of other Palace officials.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he has asked Defensor to stop talking "too much" to the media.

"I told him, you are too famous, everything you say, the media picks up," he said. "So, huwag ka na muna magsasalita (Refrain from talking in the meantime)."

Ermita said when Defensor announced that retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan would be named deputy national security adviser, the post went to retired Lt. Gen. Pedro Cabuay.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya called Defensor a "one-man convention" when he announced that they were being considered for the administration’s senatorial slate in next year’s elections, he added.

Ermita said Defensor had taken the names of possible senatorial candidates "out of thin air."

"Maybe he just thought of it, and that’s it," he said.

"As for me, this is not really the talk about ‘senatorial lineup’ because in the first place, the program of government is to push for political reform, and this means Charter change.

"So you will notice that we never mentioned anything about the preparations for senatorial elections. It is not appropriate to talk about a lineup for senators while we are discussing whether Cha-cha will push through," Ermita said.

He said if Cha-cha succeeds, Congress would be dissolved, and a unicameral, parliamentary system of government would be set up.

"As for me, I have no ambition, desire or aspiration to run for the Senate," he said.

"Stop floating my name, we are near Pasig River, we might get drowned. I told (Defensor) not to make anymore statements because it will divert (the public’s attention) from the real agenda that we are pushing," Ermita said.

He added Defensor’s statement that Malacañang was seeking to freeze ousted President Joseph Estrada’s assets had nothing to do with the Palace.

"We don’t have anything to do with the case anymore because it’s now with the courts," he said. "There is nothing like that."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved