Monday, August 28, 2006

COMELEC HYPOCRICY CONDEMNED: URGED TO REVIEW SIGNATURES

CODAL condemns the Commission on Election for colluding with Sigaw ng Bayan, a party to a petition before it, to railroad the approval for a peoples initiative by taking the hypocritical position of dismissing the complaint without allowing the Oppositors to question the signatures. CODAL was informed that COMELEC’s game plan is to dismiss Sigaw’s petition so that Sigaw can immediately raise it with the Supreme Court who in turn is expected to abandon its Santiago ruling. The COMELEC announced however, that it will not allow questions on the authenticity of the alleged millions of signatures. This will cover-up the fraud and deception used in the signature drive for charter change and will be no different from the 2004 presidential canvassing and the two impeachment proceedings where objections were merely “noted” and any evidence of fraud was not allowed to be presented.

CODAL expresses its disgust over the hypocritical stance of Chairman Benjamin Abalos who now claims that Comelec cannot entertain the Sigaw petition due to the Supreme Court injunction, after he allowed the verification of signatures of the Sigaw petition in all Comelec offices nationwide. Comm. Resureccion Borra and Comm. Felix Brawner issued a memorandum ordering the verification of the signatures, which not only shows the duplicity of Chairman Abalos and the COMELEC but also makes them liable for Contempt of the Supreme Court.

CODAL demands that the COMELEC en banc allow objections to the signatures so that Oppositors may be given the opportunity to prove the farce that is the peoples initiative and so that those responsible may be criminally and administratively charged. Again, just like the impeachment, the cover up of the fraud committed in the signature campaign for charter change will only inflame the current instability as another legal arena for redress is closed.

Human Rights Case is Strong: If only allowed in the Impeachment Proceeding

CODAL also takes exception to the position by a lawyer’s group Competent and Responsible Educators for Understanding the Law (CREUL) that the inclusion of human rights violations in the impeachment complaint helped kill the impeachment complaint. Such a position is not only legally and factually baseless but also deceptive and will surely not lead to a competent and responsible understanding of the law.

Firstly, members of the majority have stated, even before they read the Complaint, that the impeachment complaint will lose as the process is a numbers game which means that their vote will depend on whether they are pro-Arroyo or not and not on the charges or evidence presented in the complaint. In fact, nowhere in the Justice Committee report dismissing the complaint was it stated that the impeachment complaint is dismissed because the human rights evidence is weak, a fact which may have escaped CREUL members.

Secondly, the human rights complaint contains direct evidence from witnesses and the victims themselves that the military committed these violations such as the testimony of the daughter of spouses Albarillo who saw her parents taken away and killed by the military and the daughter of Patricio Abalos who saw her father abducted by a unit under Gen. Jovito Palparan headed by Lt. Basquinas, both of whom admitted to her that her father (who remains missing until now) is in their custody. The Elvis case is also a very strong case against the military since the victim of abduction and torture himself survived. He was released by the military from detention after a court ordered them to do so in a habeas corpus case. There are hundreds of documentary and testimonial evidence that could have been presented had Congress allowed the presentation of evidence. Seasoned lawyers know that testimonial evidence is very strong especially if coming from the victims themselves who not only witnessed the crime but also, have no motive to mislead the authorities on the identity of the perpetrators. The fact that these witnesses are afraid of the military makes their testimony more credible. .

If the lawyer’s group contention were true, then logic dictates that Pres. Arroyo and her allies should have allowed the presentation of evidence to expose weakness of the human rights case and destroy forever the allegations of the complicity of the Arroyo government on the political killings. However, fearful of the damage the evidence will create, the House Majority obstinately refused to allow the presentation of evidence.

Lastly, Creul did not know of an existing jurisprudence that may convict Pres. Arroyo for the human rights violations committed by her subordinates. Gen. Yamashita and other war criminals were hanged for command responsibility in war crimes even if there was no evidence showing their direct participation in such based on the following elements:

(i) there is widespread and systematic violation of human rights;

(ii) the troops under the command of the accused were involved or implicated in the same;

(iii) the accused commander, who has supervision and control over the troops, is aware of the above

(iv) the commander failed to stop the atrocities

In fact, the evidence against Pres. Arroyo is stronger since she not only failed to stop the violations but on the contrary, rewarded the perpetrators, even hailing Gen. Palparan during her SONA.

The human rights case against Pres. Arroyo is strong. Credible international institutions such as the Inter Parliamentarian Union (IPU), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) the second largest lawyers group in the world, Lawyers without Borders, Amnesty International, World Council of Churches, and even the Philippine Commission on Human Rights found more than sufficient evidence to hold the Arroyo government responsible for human rights violations. Only the allies of the president in Congress and CREUL chose to ignore the evidence, surely a case of careless, irresponsible and incompetent reading of the law.

Reference Person: Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares


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