POSTSCRIPT / March 16, 2008 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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'Why we can't support call for GMA to resign'

THIS Sunday, I share a piece by Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino, dean of the Graduate School of Law of San Beda College (Mendiola) on calls for President Gloria Arroyo to resign. He says, and I concur:

“I am not an apologist for President Arroyo. I have received no favors from her. I believe that she is a competent President and I also believe in the Rule of Law, no matter that the law may, in several respects, be infirm. And by the precepts of the Rule of Law to which I adhere, pressuring the President into resigning by swaying public opinion away from her and alienating the allegiance of the military is anathema.

“My own reflections on the moral dimensions of the problems confirm me in the legal position I have so far taken.

“1. I have followed with keen attention the proceedings in the Senate. Joey de Venecia’s testimony clearly implicates the First Gentleman. Under the current legal doctrine of individual responsibility, there is no justification to impute to the President whatever wrong-doings the First Gentleman may be guilty of. I am not yet conceding that he is guilty.

“2. The testimony of Jun Lozada, while rich in many details, contains not a single incriminatory statement against the President. There are innuendos that the NBN deal was known to, if not brokered, by some Malacañang personalities, but innuendo is never evidence, and when we take such a serious move as urging the people to press for the resignation of the President, such a call must, by all moral precepts, rest on moral certitude!

“3. Much of the testimony of Lozada in the Senate would fail the test of judicial admissibility. The Senate does not adhere to the Rules of Evidence. It is not required to, because its task is not judicial.

“4. The Senators are not the impartial investigators and judges that judicial proceedings call for. Most of the Senators are political adversaries of PGMA. The witness answers as he is led by the questions. In court, most of these questions are characterized as ‘leading,’ and are disallowed in direct examinations because they lead the witness to the kind of answer the proponent of the question — in this case, the senators — wish to elicit from the witness.

“5. Section 15 (1) of Republic Act 6770 vests in the Ombudsman the power to investigate ‘any public officer of employee, office or agency’ when an act or omission complained of appears to be illegal or even merely improper. I do not read, nor is there reason to read, the exclusion of the President from the power of the Ombudsman to investigate. Section 22 is in fact express about its power to investigate impeachable officials. I would like to hear the Ombudsman tell us whether or not there is probable cause in the first place because this, the Senate of its own cannot determine, nor does it possess the power to do so!

“6. What shocks me is the irresponsibility with which a lawyer and a Senator of the Republic should prejudice the Ombudsman and dissuade the public from lending credence to the Ombudsman. Why should he? The reason is not too difficult to fathom: Since this particular senator has always wanted the President ousted, he wants public attention focused on the Senate, majority of whose members are having a heyday with the investigations at which they get the chance to bash the President. Proceedings before the Ombudsman should be more sedate, more orderly, more rational.

“7. The contention that the Ombudsman and the Justice Secretary cannot conduct credible investigations because they are presidential appointees is specious! Were that so, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the associate justices of the High Court, the justices of all superior courts, judges of courts, members of the Constitutional Commissions — all would lack credibility because all are presidential appointees. Is it then our sad fate in this blighted Republic that only the Senators are to be trusted? All the clowning that has taken place in the Senate thus far convinces me otherwise: That it is one of the least credible institutions in this country.

“8. Is it really the truth we seek? I have the sickening feeling that the President’s foes have already decided what the ‘truth’ is — that she is guilty. If the Ombudsman were to find no probable cause against the President or reason to indict the President in the Lower House (that is tasked with filing the articles of impeachment) after a thorough investigation, would the members of the opposition and the media be willing to accept this as ‘true’? I have my serious doubts. But that is exactly the trouble: If they have decided beforehand what ‘true’ is, then all investigations are unavailing.

“9. When one protests his earnestness in search of the truth and at the same time presses for the resignation of the President, one is guilty of a ‘performative contradiction.’ If you search for the truth, you do not yet know whether or not she is guilty. But if you do not know this yet, what reason is there to ask her to resign?

“10. Asking for the President’s resignation gives now the military the signal to shift allegiances: From following the chain of command to breaking it. I find pathetic and ludicrous Jose Ma. Sison’s call to the military to shift allegiances.

“11. When did all these coup attempts disruptive of civil government start? They all started with the politicization of the military. While we lauded their role in the first EDSA People Power revolution, we also opened a Pandora’s Box — the ugly prospect of the military dictating upon civilian government and making the latter hostage to it. How shall we ever have a government that truly subjects military authority to civilian rule if we court military support for the ouster of civilian government?

“11. The two EDSA People Power exercises we have gone through got us the results we wanted THEN — the ouster of Marcos, the ouster of Erap. But have these resulted in the strengthening of democratic institutions? They definitely have not. And when the institutions of democracy and justice are weakened by extra-systemic measures like people power, snap elections, premature departures from office of duly constituted authorities, we deter the maturing of our democracy.

“12. It has been repeatedly argued that the President’s resignation is not unconstitutional. But forcing her to by inviting the military for example to disavow obedience to their Commander-in-Chief and the civilian population not to submit to authority is certainly unconstitutional.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 16, 2008)

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