MANILA, DECEMBER 9, 2010 (TRIBUNE) Malacañang got the nod of the Senate on President Aquino’s grant of amnesty to more than 300 rebels, yesterday, but not without a tongue-lashing from some senators who took note of some legal and other technical issues that put to question the validity of Proclamation No. 75.

Concurrence with the amnesty proclamation, seen to pave the way for the release from the three-year detention of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, saw one of the original sponsors registering an “abstention” after having been named Monday by the Aquino administration as an alleged co-conspirator of the mutineers of the previous government.

Only 14 of the 17 sponsors, in the previous resolution in the Senate asking Malacañang to grant amnesty to rebel soldiers, concurred with Proclamation 75, while Sen. Joker Arroyo was the lone dissenter.

In a surprise move, Sen. Gregorio Honasan cast an abstention vote citing as reason the possible “conflict of interest” saying that he could eventually end up being a “beneficiary” of the amnesty.

Honasan did not hide his disappointment over the procedural lapses of Malacañang in dealing with what he claimed was a malicious report and poor intelligence work.

“They put my name in the list. They did not clean it up. This is a procedural error. Let’s clean up the information system,” he said in an interview after the proclamation was approved in the plenary.

Palace officials claimed the list came from the Department of Justice (DoJ) as well as the military.

But the DoJ yesterday denied responsibility for the listing of amnesty beneficiaries, with a DoJ official saying that the DoJ only furnished Senator Trillanes’ staff with a list of the accused in the 2006 Marine standoff. It was assumed that it was Trillanes that furnished Malacañang a copy of the list.

Honasan did not let this pass as he confronted Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. during the hearing on the propriety of coming up with a list and submitted to the Senate panel as an official document and eventually, a public document.

“You have a list of military personnel and all of a sudden then are 29 others added to the list including john and jane does. So the list is expandable, what is our appeal? Let me couple it with a very strong word of caution, let us start from the very essence of the amnesty proclamation. I support the amnesty proclamation wholeheartedly for obvious reasons with all the bias that you can think of because to me, I speak for myself as a senator of the Republic. It is an act of statesmanship. It is the act of government that is confident in its ability to unite our people politically.

While the issue on the list was clarified by Guingona with Ochoa as non-binding and non-inclusive, Senator Arroyo refused to put the issue to rest. “This list has caused us problems. Take for instance, the folder that was given to us, titled list of respondents in marine standoff. So respondents, that’s the qualifying term. So how in the world were the civilian participants ever included? That’s the one be clarified. But the biggest insult here is listing the CPP-NPA-NDF which makes those in the marine standoff as collaborating with the communists. I mean, think of fairness: There is Prudencio Calubid included, and ask any intelligence officer here, he’s a top-ranking communist. My God! You better do your intelligence work. How in the world was he included here?” Senator Arroyo said. With Angie M. Rosales and Gerry Baldo.


Learning the hard way 

Foiled again. But with good reason.

Noynoy Aquino’s Executive Order 1, which created the Truth Commission, has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) majority.

That striking down by the high court was generally expected, as Noynoy’s EO 1 was fairly defective in that the body he created had absolutely no powers to even summon — under the pain of contempt — any witnesses, or even the accused.

The better avenue for Noynoy was to get a law crafted by Congress creating the so-called Truth Commission where such powers can be granted by the legislative body.

At that time, Noynoy could have had it passed, considering that he was just starting his presidency, and he had the majority of the Congress behind him.

But that congressional action may not even have survived the constitutionality test, mainly because there were more issues raised by the political opposition in its petition before the high court, which issues posed strong constitutional arguments such as having the focus of the commission solely on the past president’s scandals.

A strong argument offered by the petitioners against the creation of a truth commission was the issue of the body violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution. It was evident that this would pose a constitutional problem, since it singles out reports of graft and corruption of the Arroyo administration.

But it really is puzzling why Noynoy should even think of creating a truth body to probe the charges of corruption against Gloria Arroyo, when he and his lawyers can easily file cases against her, if they have the evidence.

As it was, the truth body was created to probe the charges, which translates to the administration not having the goods on her.

What should have been more apt would have been for Noynoy, if he really wanted to press this, to include every president’s alleged misdeeds, which should include Noynoy’s mother, Cory Aquino, as her regime was also marked by allegations of graft and corruption. That could then perhaps pass muster before the high court.

Never mind going all the way down to Ferdinand Marcos. There was an EO created by Cory Aquino, her first, that created the now infamous Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to go after the Marcos wealth. It was a time of a revolutionary government and even when clearly Cory’s EO was bereft of due process, and declared Marcos guilty even before an investigation could be made, as it immediately stated in her EO that Marcos had stolen from the people, she could do as she pleased, since she was then the sole law and the sole government.

As a matter of record, for all the claims being made about Cory, democracy and of her upholding press freedom, it was she who did a Marcos and closed down an opposition newspaper, the Daily Express, refusing to allow the Express employees to buy the paper, instead of having it closed down. That is on record and is verifiable fact.

Noynoy was clearly trying to copy what his mother did, but failed to realize that he had to work under the 1987 Constitution. Neither were his lawyers experts at constitutional law, perhaps believing that, as Noynoy had been elected with a 15 million vote, he could do anything without question, which also probably explains his clear disdain for the SC justices, which he displays at almost every opportunity.

Malacañang, taking the news of the high court striking down Noynoy’s Truth Commission, said it will be studying other options, but clearly, they are limited, even if Congress is asked by Noynoy to craft a law covering the so-called Truth Commission, because the fundamental problem is one that violates the equal protection law.

Noynoy, through his spokesman, said this was a setback to their fight against graft and corruption and their demand for accountability.

It would be better if Noynoy and his boys start in their own backyard. As accountability is clearly absent in his government, and where corruption is creeping in.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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