Thursday, February 09, 2006


The EO 464 issue is no longer limited to its unconstitutionality but also on the criminal liability of executive officials refusing to appear in the Senate, and Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s failure to transmit a written and official justification for her refusal to allow executive officials to appear before the Senate.

Firstly, EO 464 is unconstitutional not only because it violates the constitutional provision on congressional authority to conduct legislative inquiry and approve the budget but also the Right to Information under Sec. 7 of the Bill of Rights which provides:

Sec. 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records and to papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions… shall be afforded to the citizen subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.

The right to information may be regulated but not prohibited and only by law. EO 464 which is not a ‘law’, goes beyond mere regulation.

Secondly, Pres. Gloria Arroyo must officially inform the Senate why she is withholding permission for her cabinet officials to appear before the Senate. Cabinet members cannot just snub the Senate budget hearings without proving that they have in fact asked Pres. Arroyo for permission to appear and such request has been denied. Under Sec. 22, Art. VI of the 1987 Constitution the testimony of Cabinet members may done in executive session if ‘…the security of the state and public interest so requires and the President so states in writing.”

The act of not appearing is more than a mere request for an executive session, in fact it is not even allowed under the provision. Granting without admitting that EO 464 is constitutional, it is imperative, therefore, that Pres. Arroyo fulfills the requirement for a written communication by transmitting the same to the Senate.

Pres. Pres. Arroyo cannot just unilaterally withhold from the Senate information on a budget which she herself has submitted to them. She must not “overlook” the need for an official communication, as required by the Constitution.

Thirdly, the refusal of executive officials to appear before the Senate constitutes a crime under Philippine laws. It constitutes an impeachable offense for Pres. Arroyo for culpable violation of the Constitution as it violates Art. 233 of the Revised Penal Code:

Art. 233. The penalties of arresto mayor …to prision correccional, and perpetual disqualification…shall be imposed upon a public officer who, upon demand from competent authority, shall fail to lend his cooperation towards the administration of justice or other public service…

If convicted, Pres. Arroyo, Sec. Ignacio Bunye and other public officials will suffer imprisonment of up to two years and four months and will be perpetually disqualified from running for public office. No constitutional extension of terms will save her from such disqualification. The impeachment complaint, if ever it is filed, will contain one more impeachable ground against Pres. Arroyo. Unlike Pres. Arroyo, however, cabinet members like Sec. Bunye need not “wait” for an impeachment complaint as they can immediately be criminally charged for their acts.

CODAL is seriously concerned by Pres. Arroyo’s disregard of the Constitution she has sworn to uphold when she took her oath. CODAL condemns the total unaccountability and impunity with which executive officials have arrogantly violated the laws using EO 464 to cover up possible fraud and corruption.

Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares—Spokesperson
Date : 9 February 2006


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