Bong Austero says the Senate is digging its own grave. He makes a good point about the chamber abusing its powers to compel testimony and hold people in contempt. But what he doesn’t delve into, is how the Senate has its back to the wall. No administration since Quirino, Macapagal, and Marcos has been so hostile to the Senate. But it is a sign of the low quality of the present senate, that it’s instincts are to lash out instead of subtly matching wits.
(I'll answer MLQ3 first. I disagree, kuya Manuel. Bakit, maganda ba ang "quality" ng Senate during Cory, Ramos, Erap, and GMA's first term as president? O hindi kaya ang tunay na dahilan kung bakit may crisis ngayon between the executive and the senate ay dahil nag-iba na ang equation? A little issue called "legitimacy" on Arroyo's part? ;) Kaya puro complaints re "gridlock" (read:stonewalling) at ang pag invoke ng EO 464 (read:coverup) na lang ang nakikita natin.)
Well, bong's only good most of the time when he's attacking the admin's critics, or defending Arroyo's legitimacy.
yung tungkol sa Senate, he says the senate is "abusing" it's powers to force people to testify and hold them in contempt.
Pero tahimik lang Bong when his president, her evasive officials and military members use EO 464 and M.C. 168 to evade accountability, stonewall and avoid transparency. nothing here either but snarky attacks against the senate.
Which to me seems very disingenous and hypocritical of him.
You know what bong, let's abolish the senate na lang para wala nang "gridlock", okay?
(More on EO 464 and MC 168 from Ducky Paredes.)
The PCGG itself is using EO 1 to avoid testifying and to be not held accountable on possible corruption and gross mismanagement issues. Sabi sa Inquirer Editorial:
The EO, issued in February 1986, says in part: "No member or staff of the commission shall be required to testify or produce evidence in any judicial, legislative or administrative proceeding concerning matters within its official cognizance." This extraordinary privilege, which virtually made the PCGG accountable to no one except the President, was intended to give the commission a free hand in going after the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies. But Sen. Joker Arroyo, who was Aquino's executive secretary, said this particular provision of the EO was "effectively repealed" by the 1987 Constitution, specifically by the provisions giving Congress the authority to conduct investigations in aid of legislation.
Sabio and his commissioners adamantly maintain that the Aquino EO remains in effect and that it allows them to keep the Senate from looking into the PCGG's affairs. Earlier, they refused to reveal the details of negotiations between the PCGG and businessman Eduardo Cojuangco regarding the shares of stock in San Miguel Corp. purchased with funds taken from the coconut levy during the Ferdinand Marcos era. And they stuck to this position even when the senators punished them for their defiance by threatening not to appropriate anything for the PCGG's operations.
With the PCGG and the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration challenging the authority of the Senate to make the PCGG officials testify, the Supreme Court will have to resolve the issue. But right off it seems inconceivable that the Court would uphold an EO over the fundamental law. The 1987 Constitution clearly confers on Congress the power to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation. And even when that power was not expressly provided in the Charter, such as in the 1935 Constitution, the Court declared that Congress' "power of inquiry -- with process to enforce it -- is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function."
More on Sabio vs. Senate from Fr. Bernas:
The Supreme Court in its deliberations will have to place the text and background of the immunity provision of EO 1 side by side with these constitutional provisions relied upon by the Senate to determine whether they are incompatible. Sabio, however, insists that under EO 1, he is answerable exclusively to the President. Translated, his claim means that he is above everyone except the President. Marvelous indeed!
So far the matter of “executive privilege” has not come up. Executive privilege was the armor President Macapagal-Arroyo donned when she issued EO 464. I would not be surprised if it should come up as Sabio’s fall-back position. The Supreme Court had a lot to say about executive privilege in its decision striking down the gag order in EO 464. The Court’s position is that, in the ultimate analysis, it is the Court that decides whether a matter is or is not of executive privilege. Meanwhile, Malacañang continues to prevent executive officials from appearing in investigations.
Read the whole thing.
So while we have Austero and people like the Ducky Paredes who want to see the Senate abolished on one side, we have others like JB Baylon and Fr. Bernas on the other side who sees what the admin and their allies are doing and are speaking out about it.
Sabi ni Baylon:
The Constitution sets up a system of government whereby power is divided between an Executive, Legislative and Judicial branch, and power within the Legislative is divided further between an upper and a lower chamber. When one branch of government – in this case, the Executive – refuses to cooperate with another branch in the latter’s exercise of its functions, you effectively have one branch of government serving to undermine another, if not in fact undermine the whole Constitutional framework.
Of course, critics of the Senate will argue that it is in fact the Senate, in its exercise of its functions, that is effectively undermining another branch (the Executive) and in fact the whole Constitutional framework. The investigations the Senate conducts, the critics continue, are really not legislation-related, but are resorted to by political opponents of the president who could not get at her any other way.
But is this the case?
In the investigation into the fertilizer fund scam, for example, was the Senate doing this as a matter of political vendetta, or to get to the bottom of the situation which had an alleged connection to the contested 2004 elections? And when the prime suspect in the fund scam disappeared – only to reappear in the United States – was it the Senate that was hindering progress or hindering the achievement of good government, or was it the Executive branch?
Similarly, in the impeachment process, was the Senate a hindrance to progress and to the achievement of good government? Or was the nature of the lower house a guarantee that this president would not have to be made accountable to allegations that the 2004 elections were characterized by systematic cheating? The Senate, we must remember, was to act as the court before which the case against the President was to be tried; but before it could get to the upper chamber, the lower house had to act as the fiscal and determine in the first place whether a case actually existed.
While the general public believed a case did exist, the lower house on two separate occasions disagreed. Was good government advanced? And would good government be advanced if only the House survives as the legislature?
I really suspect that there exists some orchestrated effort to get the Philippine Senate, as part and parcel of the effort to get our Constitution changed and a unicameral legislature established. I hope I am wrong, but given all that I see, read and hear, how can I come to a different conclusion?
Yeah, I suspect that too JB. Isn't that what Arroyo's defenders and CHA CHA boys are selling these days? The abolition of the Senate?
Sabi ni Neal Cruz, yung PCGG raw ang dapat i-abolish dahil naging useless na ito, and I agree with him.
After 20 years of sequestration, what has the PCGG recovered in court suits? All the funds turned over to the government were surrendered by the Marcos cronies, not recovered in court suits. The Marcos ill-gotten wealth from Swiss banks was recovered with the help of the Swiss government and the banks themselves, not through the efforts of the PCGG. But before the “recovered” wealth could benefit human rights victims and agrarian reform farmers, much of it was already gone—where to, nobody knows.
After 20 years, almost all the hundreds of cases against Imelda Marcos that are being prosecuted by PCGG lawyers have been dismissed. She has been convicted in only one, and it is not being enforced. Instead, Abcede, who is supposed to lead the charge against the Marcoses, was filmed dancing with Imelda herself, having a grand time with the accused. Only in the Philippines.
This is the same Abcede who has proposed a compromise (with the Marcoses) in which part of the loot would be returned to the Marcoses and all criminal charges against them dismissed. Worse, even without such a compromise, the rest of the charges still pending against Imelda are in danger of also being dismissed.
In this situation, what do we need the PCGG for? Through the years, it has proven itself not only to be useless but also to be another source of corruption. It is all commissions, and no good government. The sooner it is abolished, the more money we save for the taxpayers. The PCGG-initiated cases still pending can be turned over to the Department of Justice for further prosecution. And we will be rid of Sabio and Abcede.
Especially Ricardo Abcede. He's nothing more than a partisan hack for this administration.
UPDATE: MLQ3 gives a lenghthly reply to rego re PCGG and the Senate's powers that you should read.
UPDATE: From Bong Austero:
It was very disconcerting to watch supposed paragons of virtue publicly humiliating a public official who was, in the first place, virtually dragged into the room kicking and screaming. That the subject of the senatorial ire was a 70-year-old head of a government commission suffering from hypertension made the senators look even more menacing and cruel. It is possible that he is guilty of incompetence or corruption, but that doesn’t strip him of his right to be treated with courtesy.
Arroyo appointee and PCGG commissioner Camilo Sabio, like most Arroyo cabinet officials and military people, refused to attend hearings to testify and answer questions relating to their work, especially re anomalies and possible corruption issues in their departments.
From the Malaya:
A DEBATE on a two-decade-old executive order issued during the revolutionary government of President Corazon Aquino resulted yesterday in a shouting match between Sen. Richard Gordon and Camilo Sabio, chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government who has been under Senate detention since Tuesday.
Sabio appeared at the resumption of the Senate investigation on the reported anomalous losses of the Philippine Holdings Corp. (PHC) but remained defiant and refused to answer questions from senators.
Read the whole thing. I'm effin' glad somebody from the Senate finally GOT ANGRY about the snubbing of hearings and the evasiveness that Arroyo officials have been displaying since GLORIAGATE came out last year.
And this is not the first time an Arroyo official refused to answer questions and claimed to be sick.
Remember Norberto Gonzalez?
As for Gonzales, he is still in contempt of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Sen. Joker Arroyo for refusing to answer questions on the Venable contract that he signed. First, he feigned illness so that he would be confined at the Heart Center instead of in the Senate; then he asked for a "medical leave" so that he would be set free temporarily while still undecided on having a "heart bypass operation." Then he returned to work at the National Security Office without answering the senators' questions on the Venable contract. And the contempt citation and the questions were forgotten by the senators, especially Senator Arroyo, as though they were suddenly stricken with amnesia. Not a peep out of them.
More on Norberto Gonzalez and the secret Venable deal from PCIJ.
From Ducky Paredes: Norberto Gonzalez outsmarted the senate:
Now that national security adviser Bert Gonzales has returned to work, when will the Senate again take him into custody? It is clear that no heart surgery was performed on Bert in Sweden or elsewhere. Remember that the reason why the Senate ostensibly let him off from its custody was because of medical reasons. Bert needed surgery and the Senate would not get in the way of a necessary medical procedure.
Isn’t it clear that Malacañang and Bert only bamboozled the Senate into letting Bert go? What we want to know is this: What will the Senate do about this? The Senators are being played for fools? Or, has there been, again, some huge pay-off? If the Senate will not do anything to assert itself, then, perhaps, Malacañang is right that the Senate ought to be scuttled.
More from Austero, who quotes commenter Domingo Arong:
Domingo Rayon, a regular reader of my blog, posted a lengthy riposte to my rant, which provides an important context to the whole imbroglio. He said that Sabio’s arrest and detention was eerily reminiscent of the McCarthy era in the United States and quoted Edward Murrow’s famous warning: “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.”
Ever heard of the phrase "the coverup is worse than the crime itself"? Sa Watergate era naman yan.
Yes, there are concerns about corruption and gross mismanagement sa PCGG, pero kaya nga may imbestigasyon eh, para malaman ang katotohanan. But Sabio refused to answer questions and seems intent on doing an Iggy Arroyo in the Pidal case.
re the similarities and differences between McCarthy and Sabio's case, eto sabi ni MLQ3:
first, the power of the us senate was there; what was questioned was whether the power was being abused and used for undemocratic ends; the solution was remedial legislation.
if the us senate analogy is to be used, then the solution is also remedial legislation. but until the powers are removed by law, the powers remain to be used.
second, for what purpose were the witch hunts of mccarthy? to hunt out suspected communists, while from what i know, it was not declared unlawful to be a communist -merely considered unamerican. hence one problem.
for what purpose has sabio been called to testify? to inquire as to whether one of his commissioners has abused his privileges as a director of a corporation with sequestered shares. from what i know, in the past, pcgg commissioners sitting in sequestered companies gave their allowances to the government; under the present pcgg, the commissioners get to keep them: one figure i’ve heard bruited about is that with multiple directorships, pcgg commissioners now make something like 300k a month. this is certainly grounds for inquiry -after all, appointed by the president, you can’t expect the president to investigate her own appointees. the specific commissioner whose actions provoked the inquiry is comm. abcede. sabio is merely taking the bullet for him.
on principle, you say? but there is the precedent of pcgg chairman haydee yorac. when summoned by the senate, she didn’t hide behind her interpretation of the law. she went to the senate, and told them, if you have doubts about pcgg commissioners, then you have to look at the appointing authority, because after all, the pcgg chairman doesn’t appoint -and cannot remove- her fellow commissioners. only the president can. even a hostile senate had to agree with her (specifically, sen. enrile, who is causing trouble for the pcgg now, obviously for reasons of his own). now enrile is many things, but a dumb lawyer he’s not. he knows he has precedent to stand on.
what is the pcgg defending? it’s independence? to do what? be free from any and all scrutiny? and what if remedial legislation is required -such as, a law closing the loophole enjoyed by present commissioners, a loophole that didn’t exist before because previous commissioners didn’t think it proper to pocket per diems and perks that would be ok for any other appointee to receive, but which they cannot, by virtue of their being commissioners?
More: 8 cops who served the Senate arrest warrant on PCGG commissioners suspended by PNP.
The Tribune editorial comments:
The suspension of the eight policemen, who are with the PNP’s Special Forces, was obviously a message to the Senate from Malacañang, which is for the chamber to stop arresting Arroyo executives on contempt charges or else, there will be no cooperation from the police force to effect any and all orders issued by the Senate. More action will moreover be taken by Malacañang if such moves continued, such as pulling out all security forces from the Senate.
UPDATE: More on Abcede and the PCGG from Dean Jorge Bocobo.