Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Statement of March 14, 2006

CODAL expresses concern over the Executive’s continuing exercise of unconstitutional and illegal acts against ‘residual’ threats to Pres. Gloria Arroyo, despite the supposed lifting of Proclamation 1017. The continuing arrests conducted against opposition members, with Mr. Linggoy Alcuaz as the latest victim, the unconstitutional acts committed by the Department of Justice in relation to the six party list representatives, and continuous threats against the media all show that the President still wants to crush the opposition by violating established constitutional and statutory rules.

DOJ Actions Violative of Laws on Public Officials

CODAL believes that the transfer of the hearing of the ‘Batasan Five’ to the House of Representatives violates not only DOJ rules but the anti-graft law itself. Firstly, transferring the hearing venue to a venue other than that stated in the Subpoena, for no legal reason and without notifying the respondents, is clearly illegal, especially since Rep. Ocampo and the other respondents did not request for such transfer. Secondly, suddenly rescheduling the preliminary investigation from 2:00 p.m. as stated in the Subpoena to 10:00 a.m. is clearly violative of the rights of the respondents as it caught them and their lawyers by surprise resulting in their failure to appear at their own preliminary investigation.

The explanation of Pros. Emmanuel Velasco, that they have announced to the media as early as Saturday that the hearing is scheduled at 10:00 am in the House of Representatives shocks members of the legal community for the seeming ignorance of the law exhibited by the DOJ, since under the Rules, notices of the DOJ or any tribunal for that matter, cannot be transmitted through the media. Timely notification through subpoena or summons, not through media, is the proper process for notification. The DOJ panel may be liable under Sec.3 of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits public officials from:

(e) Causing undue injury to any party…in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions, through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

Resetting the hearing schedule through media and transferring the venue away from that written in the notice, without properly informing the respondents, is not merely gross negligence but an evident bad faith that actually caused injury to the respondents.

Unethical Dramatics

CODAL is also concerned of the impact on the justice system of the participation of the DOJ panel in a drama script played out with the appearance of a ‘masked’ witness who claims to be a security personnel of the respondents. If the witness is indeed a security personnel of the respondents, then there was no need for him to hide his face from respondents who are then presumed to personally know him, especially since he has publicly announced his real name. This highly irregular and amateur legal maneuver may be expected from an opposing counsel in a trial, but not from the DOJ panel who is required under the law, to exhibit impartiality and ensure the identity of the witness. If the witness is later found to have committed perjury, the DOJ panel may be implicated in the charade.

Writ of Habeas Corpus Suspended

The Executive’s refusal to implement a court order to release Rep. Crispin Beltran based on Sec. Ignacio Bunyi’s declaration that the decision was based on the wrong ‘premise’ puts into question whether emergency rule has indeed been lifted. Under the Constitution and Philippine laws, detention must be based on a court order—in ALL cases, and not on whether the executive agrees with a court decision. Even if Rep. Beltran is charged in a Makati RTC for rebellion, he may no longer be detained without a commitment order from the Makati RTC since he was arrested without a warrant. The executive’s implementation of warrantless arrests and refusal to implement court orders is already an undeclared suspension of the writ of habeas corpus without congressional concurrence. CODAL believes that these latest actions and pronouncements from the DOJ institutionalizes unconstitutional and highly irregular practices that will negatively impact on the rights of all those accused of a crime.

Use of Public Office Against Personal Enemies

The use of public office and funds against personal enemies of the President are clearly illegal and prohibited, not only under RA 3019, but also under Sec. 4 (c) and (d) of RA 6713 or the Ethical Standards for Public Officials, to wit :

(c) Justness and Sincerity—Public officials.. must act with justness and shall not discriminate against anyone…They shall at all times respect the rights of others and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law…and public interest.

(d) Political Neutrality—Public officials and employees shall provide service to everyone without unfair discrimination and regardless of party affiliation or preference.

The use of the DOJ and the PNP to persecute political and personal opponents of the President, such as the Rep. Ocampo and other party list representatives and Mr. Alcuaz, the illegal dispersal of opposition rallies, and the refusal of the DOJ to follow a court order for the release of Rep. Beltran, clearly conflicts with the above provisions.

Furthermore, the fact that the DOJ filed various sedition and rebellion charges against opponents of the president, despite the clear ruling in Salazar vs. Enrile and Garcia-Padilla vs. Enrile that rebellion is but one continuing act and absorbs other crimes in relation to rebellion, is not only novel but a clear departure from established jurisprudence. The filing of separate rebellion cases against the same respondents will be interpreted by the legal community as nothing more than harassment, especially since it conflicts with the DOJ’s own pronouncements that rebellion as a ‘continuing crime’ and therefore one continuous act. In fact, the legal community finds the preliminary investigation conducted by the DOJ pointless considering that Sec. Gonzales has already prejudged the investigation by publicly finding probable cause and declaring that the respondents have committed a continuing crime of rebellion and therefore subject to warrantless arrest.

The arrest of Mr. Alcuaz for failure to return a car can only be interpreted as harassment, when compared with the kid glove treatment of Comm. Garcillano, Usec. Jocelyn Bolante who is suspected of involvement in the 728 million fertilizer scam and other allies of the President. The arrest of Mr. Alcuaz becomes more absurd since CODAL was shown a PCSO receipt of the car allegedly stolen, signed by a PCSO personnel named Mr. Baylosis.

All of the above acts, including attacks on press freedom through public threats of prosecuting the Inquirer and other media personnel, opens up Pres. Arroyo, Sec. Gonzales and other members of the DOJ and PNP to criminal and administrative liability under Philippine law.

CODAL urges the DOJ to decide legal issues based on the merits rather than personal and political favors. Presidents and Justice Secretaries come and go, and state prosecutors should not sacrifice their integrity (and careers) to protect the interest of any public official or politician. The latest moves of Pres. Arroyo and the Secretary of Justice further destroys the credibility of the criminal justice system and the government’s capacity to administer justice without fear or favor. These not only make them criminally liable during the official period of PP 1017 but even after its supposed ‘lifting’.