POSTSCRIPT / February 8, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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The test: Will GMA ask for World Bank report?

OPPORTUNITY: President Gloria Arroyo is missing a rare chance to score a big blow against venalities in government and redeem some of the luster lost by her administration haunted by persistent talk of corruption in high places.

She should quit stalking US President Barack Obama and come home fast so she can act on reports blindly attributed to the World Bank that her husband Mike, among other bigwigs, has been collecting commissions from WB-assisted public works projects.

This is a simple Either-Or case: Either Mike Arroyo has solicited/received commissions/fees or he has not.

If Mike is clean, the President should have no problem asking the World Bank for its report and the pertinent evidence.

On the basis of those documents and whatever local investigators have gathered, she can throw the book at all those involved — and come out looking like a latter-day crusader.

But if her husband has, as insinuated, been receiving grease money, then she would be hesitant to ask for the WB report. That would be like asking for a hammer with which to hit herself and her dear husband of 40 years.

Watch what President Arroyo will do upon her return.

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SABONG OKAYED: Former Rizal Gov. Casimiro Ynares tells us that Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has issued an opinion that it is legal to hold cockfights, involving multimillion-peso bets, in the Ynares Sports Arena in the capitol grounds in Pasig City.

Ynares gave us a copy of Gonzalez’ legal opinion dated May 7, 2007, which leans on Section 468 of the Local Government Code of 1991, Executive Order No. 301 dated July 26, 1987, and Executive Order No. 109 dated May 27, 2002.

Since the justice secretary’s opinion is deemed controlling until set aside by a competent court, that opinion is the law on the matter. It opens the floodgates to the use of similar government premises for cockfights and such forms of gambling.

Derbies have been scheduled in the 2,400-seat Ynares cockpit on Feb. 10 and 24, March 10, 17 and 24, April 14, 21 and 28, and May 5, 12 and 19. Previously, cockfights were held there last Dec. 16, Jan. 6, 13, 15, 17 and 27, and last Feb. 3. 

Ynares and the spouse of a senator are reportedly the moving spirit behind the derbies that draw big names in politics, sports and business. 

It seems that objectors among the more decent elements of the community have no recourse but to go to court.

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LEGAL TEMPEST: The debate over the unpromulgated Supreme Court decision declaring a sitting congresswoman an alien and therefore unfit to hold office has drawn Chief Justice Reynato Puno to the eye of the storm.

Louie Biraogo, calling himself a “public interest crusader,” accuses Puno — the only one in the 15-member court who did not sign the decision — of sitting on the case for failing to certify and promulgate the ruling.

The Court has explained itself in its resolution of Dec. 10, 2008: “During its session on 15 July 2008, the En Banc continued its deliberations on the ponencia of Justice Ruben T. Reyes in these consolidated cases. Since no one raised any further objections to Justice Reyes’ ponencia, the En Banc approved the ponencia with a number of Justices saying they were concurring ‘in the result’. Justice Reyes then circulated immediately his ponencia for signature by the Justices during the same session. (The Justices signed, beginning from the most junior, Justice Brion, all the way to the Senior Associate Justice, Justice Quisumbing.) After the session and during lunch, Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno noted that seven Justices concurred ‘in the result’ of the ponencia of Justice Reyes. Justices Minita Chico-Nazario and Teresita Leonardo De Castro then informed the Chief Justice that they too would concur only ‘in the result.’ Since nine Justices, not counting the Chief Justice, would concur only ‘in the result,’ the Justices unanimously decided to withhold the promulgation of the ponencia of Justice Reyes.”

Still, the storm outside the tribunal refuses to die down.

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DOCTRINAL VALUE: The SC resolution of Dec. 10 also explained that “if a majority concurs only ‘in the result,’ the ponencia has no doctrinal value.”

Critics of Puno said that “no doctrinal value” simply means that a decision lacked new insight into questions of law that might enrich jurisprudence.” If their interpretation is right, they also may be correct in saying that such point is not a ground for refusing to promulgate a decision.

In this connection, Section 14, Article VIII, of the Constitution provides: “No decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based.”

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ASK THE SC: Puno’s adherents said that since a majority of nine justices concurred only “in the result” without explaining their votes or how they reached their stand, that decision does not hew to the Constitution as it does not “clearly and distinctly (express) the facts and the law on which it is based.”

On the other hand, retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban says that a Supreme Court decision need not be doctrinal to be promulgated. He said so in his well-read column in a major daily.

Since the debate involves an interpretation of the Constitution, the question will have to be thrown back to the Supreme Court for final resolution. Until then, it may be best for all of us to quiet down and wait.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 8, 2009)

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