POSTSCRIPT / October 19, 2010 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Quality of mercy isn’t strained by school ties

YUMUL IS SECURE: It appears that Director Graciano Yumul of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (or simply the weather bureau) will stay at his post.

Yumul, unlike his hapless predecessor Prisco Nilo, made sure all the proper alert signals on typhoon “Juan” were issued before the howler could rattle the rafters on Times Street in Quezon City and cause power blackouts.

In fact, my barber said that Yumul may have overstated the destructive potentials of Juan by going all the way up to signal No. 4, a number not frequently used in these wind-blown parts.

With the President warning in advance that he wanted zero casualties, the weather bureau and rescue/relief agencies could not have risked underestimating potential loss of lives and property.

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WHY CONGRESS: It is hard to decipher the message of Malacañang when it announced that the fate of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in connection with the Aug. 23 hostage fiasco would be “referred to the Congress for appropriate action.”

The only “appropriate (disciplinary) action” we know that the Congress can take involving an official like Gutierrez with a fixed term under the Constitution will be to impeach her.

Is the hostage-taking incident being used as added fodder to the bid to oust Gutierrez and replace her with someone that President Noynoy Aquino can trust?

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DRAGGED IN: The Ombudsman should not have been dragged into the hostage case by the Incident Investigation and Review Committee tracing the blunders in the negotiation with suspended police officer Ronaldo Mendoza, the hostage-taker.

Did Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and the Katzenjammer Kids of the Department of the Interior and Local Government want Gutierrez to play along and fix Mendoza’s case pending with her office?

Could not Gutierrez have cooperated and misled Mendoza with a false promise that his case would be withdrawn or his suspension lifted if he would release the hostages he was holding at gunpoint inside a tourist bus?

Being an independent Constitutional officer who is not co-responsible for police matters, she could have given a flat “No” to entreaties to go easy on Mendoza. She wrote a letter to at least ease the hostage-taker’s anxiety, but it did not work.

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IRRELEVANT POINT:  Gutierrez is often ridiculed as biased for President Gloria Arroyo, who appointed her, just because she was an Ateneo law school classmate of the president’s husband Jose Miguel.

Sometimes students are able to choose their subjects and professors, but not their classmates or batchmates in college.

The irrelevant point is also cited when President Aquino appoints former Ateneo classmates to sensitive government posts. My take is that if they are more qualified than others, there is no reason why classmates should be disqualified solely on that basis.

It is unfair to blindly denounce orders and resolutions of the Ombudsman, who is supposedly unable to be objective, when handling cases involving the Arroyo couple.

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WHY CONGRESS?: The speculative “appropriate action” move is reportedly a consequence of fears in the Palace that the ongoing impeachment bid against Gutierrez may not prosper and that the administration needs another point of attack.

And the IIRC report of the committee headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima appeared to be handy.

Opening this other point is understandable. At the moment, the attempts at Gutierrez’s impeachment appear headed for trouble — thanks to the Palace’s allies in the Congress.

Congressmen are at each other’s neck over the refusal of Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chair of theHouse justice committee, to inhibit himself from the proceedings because of an apparent bias on his part against Gutierrez.

The alleged bias is due to the cases that he and his father, former Iloilo governor, are facing before the Office of the Ombudsman.

These cases, according to Tupas’ fellow pro-administration solons, could send signals to the public that Congress has not been fair to Gutierrez.

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IMPEACHMENT STALLED: The current impeachment process in the House of Representatives is also sailing through very rough legal waters.

The Supreme Court stepped in after Gutierrez complained that the bid to oust her is illegal since it violates the constitutional ban on impeachment based on the same complaints filed within a one-year period.

It does not help that some congressmen challenged the power of the SC to intervene. The SC ordered all parties to go back to the status quo ante, sending signals that it does not share the congressmen’s misgivings on SC intervention.

Is the impeachment case set to self-destruct based on legal grounds and on the perception of lack of impartiality?

I hope these are not the reasons why there is a need for a new excuse to remove Gutierrez.

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ETERNAL GRATITUDE: That point about appointees to key prosecution and judicial posts being eternally beholden to the president who had appointed them is ridiculous, and dangerous.

How can justices and those in the prosecution service be able to function if we follow this line of thinking? Do they inhibit themselves whenever there are hints about the least link to the president who had appointed them?

I know of several Supreme Court justices, some of them former SC chiefs, who tell me that the president who had appointed them cut off contact with them, including phone calls. There is no reason they would make “bola” to me.

If this classmate line is pursued to its absurd end, it would follow that all appointees of President Aquino himself would also be so grateful to him that they would tailor their decisions to what they think would please their patron.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 19, 2010)

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