SC asked: Stop Truth Commission

By Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Aug 12 2010 01:01 PM | Updated as of Aug 12 2010 10:16 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers from the minority group asked the Supreme Court to quash the executive fiat that would be investigating the faults of the past administration, saying it is redundant, discriminatory and unconstitutional.

In a 55-page petition, the lawmakers also sought a stay order from the SC against Executive Order 1 that created the so-called Truth Commission.

The commission, tasked to investigate the anomalies during the 9-year term of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was created with too much power that it has already stepped on the rights of constitutionally-created bodies, they said.

Ironically, they noted “no life has been breathed to the ‘Truth Commission’ because the President of the Republic is powerless to give life to such public office.”

The petitioners are Representatives Edcel C. Lagman, Rodolfo B. Albano, Jr., Simeon A. Datumanong and Orlando B. Fua, Sr.

Named as respondents are Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr. and Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad.

The 1987 Constitution did not allow the President to create public offices, the petitioners said.

Congress has the right to make laws, in this case create or even abolish offices, they said.

Previous commissions had even passed the stringent procedures in Congress, including the Agrava Commission and the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

The explanation of the administration that the commission was created via Administrative Code of 1987 is misplaced, they said. The Truth
Commission was anchored on the President’s authority to reorganize his office.

In fact, there is nothing to reorganize since the Truth Commission was “nonexistent” before the advent of Executive Order 1, they said.

The Aquino administration could also not make an example out of the past commissions such as the Feliciano, Melo and Zeñarosa Commissions, since these were not granted full quasi-judicial powers.

Why only Arroyo?

The order also violates the equal protection clause prescribed in the Constitution by focusing on the alleged anomalies during the Arroyo administration, the petitioners noted.

“If eliminating graft and corruption is the noble aim, then equal protection demands that all persons who belong to the same class of suspected or alleged perpetrators of graft and corruption must be investigated and prosecuted equally without regard to personalities and regimes,” the petitioners said.

The commission of graft and corruption was not limited to the Arroyo administration, they said.

Previous administrations have been hounded by controversies with the same magnitude, they said.

How could the current administration forget the PEA-Amari scandal, Clark Centennial Expo scandal and the BW Resources scandal, they asked.

Redundant

The Office of the Ombudsman, or even the Department of Justice (DoJ), already has the same functions similar to the perceived role of the Truth Commission, the petitioners said.

In fact, the commission would even need the prosecutorial services of the DoJ, they noted.

The government would need to cough up additional budget for a redundant commission, they said.

“Consequently, both the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice are not supposed to accept the recommendations of the “Truth Commission” as a verity, hook line and sinker,” the petitioners said.

The efforts of the Truth Commission would only become an exercise in futility, they said.

The period within which the commission should do its job is also “suspect,” they said.

“The maximum term of 21 months is a virtual license for the ‘Truth Commission’ to foot-drag its investigation as if to maximize the period for partisan hostility against expected respondents,” they added.

Already, the organization of its members has already delayed the procedures in the DoJ and Ombudsman since “they are bound to await the completion of the ‘Truth Commission.’”

‘Embarrassing aberration’

“With respect to the constitution of truth commissions, the invariable practice of nations, without any exception, is that these commissions are organized solely and exclusively to investigate violations of human rights as an integral part of the peace and closure process,” they said.

They cited for example the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in the post-apartheid South Africa. This commission pushed for the reconciliation of the warring minority whites and majority blacks in South Africa.

The “truth commissions” in other parts of the world were also formed exclusively to investigate human rights violations.

“The creation of the “Philippine Truth Commission of 2010” to investigate graft and corruption cases of the previous administration is a blatant departure from such customary practice as part of international law to which the Philippines is constitutionally mandated to adhere to and accept,” they said.

“Regrettably, the Philippine version of a truth commission appears to be an embarrassing aberration,” the petitioners said. -- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News