POSTSCRIPT / August 3, 2010 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Read EO-1 first, join debate on TruthComm

CHALLENGES: With the many challenges to Executive Order No. 1 creating the Truth Commission last Friday, this first creation of President Noynoy Aquino will have to secure first the stamp of approval of the Supreme Court.

The EO invoked the continuing authority of the President to reorganize his office under Book III, Chapter 10, Section 31 of Executive Order No. 292, also known as the Revised Administrative Code.

But its critics point out that in creating that quasi-judicial body, funding it, and investing it with coercive powers, the President overstretched himself and exercised powers that belong to the Congress.

So we lay taxpayers can understand the issues and join the debate, we are reprinting below some of the EO’s more interesting sections that fit into our limited space.

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SECTION 1. Creation of a Commission. – There is hereby created the PHILIPPINE TRUTH COMMISSIONxxx which shall primarily seek and find the truth on, and toward this end, investigate reports of graft and corruption of such scale and magnitude that shock and offend the moral and ethical sensibilities of the people, committed by public officers and employees, their co-principals, accomplices and accessories from the private sector, if any, during the previous administration; and thereafter recommend the appropriate action or measure to be taken thereon to ensure that the full measure of justice shall be served without fear or favor.

SECTION 2. Powers and Functions. – The Commission, which shall have all the powers of an investigative body under Section 37, Chapter 9, Book I of the Administrative Code of 1987, is primarily tasked to conduct a thorough fact-finding investigation of reported cases of graft and corruption referred to in Section 1, involving third level public officers and higher, their co-principals, accomplices and accessories from the private sector, if any, during the previous administration and thereafter submit its finding and recommendations to the President, Congress and the Ombudsman. In particular, it shall:

“a) Identify and determine the reported cases of such graft and corruption which it will investigate;

“b) Collect, receive, review and evaluate evidence related to or regarding the cases of large scale corruption which it has chosen to investigate, and to this end require any agency, official or employee of the Executive Branch, including government-owned or controlled corporations, to produce documents, books, records and other papers;

“c) Upon proper request or representation, obtain information and documents from the Senate and the House of Representatives records of investigations conducted by committees thereof relating to matters or subjects being investigated by the Commission;

“d) Upon proper request and representation, obtain information from the courts, including the Sandiganbayan and the Office of the Court Administrator, information or documents in respect to corruption cases filed with the Sandiganbayan or the regular courts, xxx;

“e) Invite or subpoena witnesses and take their testimonies and for that purpose, administer oaths or affirmations xxx;

“f) Recommend, in cases where there is a need to utilize any person as a state witness to ensure that the ends of justice be fully served, that such person who qualifies as a state witness under the Revised Rules of Court be admitted for that purpose;

“g) Turn over from time to time, for expeditious prosecution, to the appropriate prosecutorial authorities, by means of a special or interim report and recommendation, all evidence on corruption of public officers and employees and their private sector co-principals, accomplices or accessories, if any, when in the course of its investigation the Commission finds that there is reasonable ground to believe that they are liable for graft and corruption xxx;

“h) Call upon any government investigative or prosecutorial agency such as the Department of Justice or any of the agencies under it, and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, for such assistance and cooperation as it may require xxx.

“SECTION 6. Conduct of Proceedings. – The proceedings of the Commission shall be in accordance with the rules promulgated by (it). Hearings or proceedings of the Commission shall be open to the public. However, the Commission, motu propio or upon the request of the person testifying, hold an executive or closed-door hearing where matters of national security or public safety are involved or when the personal safety of the witness warrants the holding of such executive or closed-door hearing.

“SECTION 9. Refusal to Obey Subpoena, Take Oath or Give Testimony. – Any government official or personnel who, without lawful excuse, fails to appear upon subpoena issued by the Commission or who, appearing before the Commission refuses to take oath or affirmation, give testimony or produce documents for inspection, when required, shall be subject to administrative disciplinary action. Any private person who does the same may be dealt with in accordance with law.

“SECTION 11. Budget for the Commission. – The Office of the President shall provide the necessary funds for the Commission to ensure that it can exercise its powers, execute its functions, and perform its duties and responsibilities as effectively, efficiently, and expeditiously as possible.

“SECTION 14. Term of the Commission. – The Commission shall accomplish its mission on or before Dec. 31, 2012.

“SECTION 15. Publication of Final Report. – On or before Dec. 31, 2012, the Commission shall render a comprehensive final report which shall be published upon directive of the President. Prior thereto, also upon directive of the President, the Commission may publish such special interim reports it may issue from time to time.

“SECTION 17. Special Provision Concerning Mandate. If and when in the judgment of the President there is a need to expand the mandate of the Commission as defined in Section 1 hereof to include the investigation of cases and instances of graft and corruption during the prior administrations, such mandate may be so extended accordingly by way of a supplemental Executive Order.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 3, 2010)

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