Monday, October 30, 2006


CODAL hails the Supreme Court decision dismissing the Sigaw ng Bayan petition for a peoples initiative. We commend the eight Supreme Court justices for asserting their independence despite the open and public pressure applied on the tribunal. We urge members of the Arroyo cabinet to refrain from exerting pressure on the justices through public pronouncements that tend to threaten or discredit the Supreme Court decision. We demand that Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s appointment of a new justice to replace Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban should be based on integrity, independence and legal capabilities rather than on his or her position on charter change. We demand that whoever is appointed should inhibit himself from issues related to charter change to erase doubts on the integrity of the appointment and the Court’s final decision on the issue.

Intervention and Pressure

CODAL is seriously concerned by the pronouncements of public officials pressuring or discrediting the Supreme Court considering that, unlike private individuals, these public officials have the resources and influence to pressure the Supreme Court particularly in the appointment of justices. Sec. Raul Gonzalez is possibly the only Justice Secretary ever who publicly discredited the very justice system he administers by declaring that the Court’s decision was ‘railroaded or rushed’ for the personal interest of the justices implying that justice and due process were not served by the decision. We ask Pres. Arroyo to fire Sec. Gonzalez for his shameless intervention on the issue thereby compromising even his position as Justice Secretary. Sec. Gonzalez, who will be appointed to the Interim Parliament under the Sigaw proposed Constitution, should refrain from attacking the decision, including his colleague Sec. Avelino Cruz, since his statements will be self serving considering that he stands to personally gain under the new Constitution as a new member of the Interim Parliament and the resulting Constituent Assembly. CODAL which plans to have public officials investigated and prosecuted for the misuse of public funds on the ostensibly private endeavor called the “peoples initiative” cannot now expect impartial investigation and prosecution by the Department of Justice of those found to have misappropriated public funds because the Justice Secretary has once again prejudged the case.

The Supreme Court decision was legally sound and based on constitutional issues, and not on mere issues of fact as Sigaw wishes to portray. The initiative petition was a revision in violation of Art. VII, Section 2 of the Constitution. The signatories did not sign the petition itself but mere signature sheets as admitted by Sigaw, proof that Sigaw failed to show that the people read or were aware of the contents of the petition. Since this fact was admitted by Sigaw, there was no factual issue that needs to be investigated or ‘tried’ by the Supreme Court. It is an entrench legal principle that the one who alleges has the burden of proving the allegation. Since Sigaw failed to prove that the petition was read by the signatories, then it is imperative on the Court to dismiss the petition. Many of the signatories for example were not aware that members of the Arroyo Cabinet, such as Sec. Raul Gonzalez, will become members of a powerful ‘Interim Parliament’ who will again amend the Constitution and decide when to hold the next election and when their terms of office will end. The decision saved the nation from the dangers of being ruled by an amorphous Interim Parliament under a more powerful Pres. Arroyo who are both given the ‘constitutional authority’ to perpetuate themselves in power beyond 2010 as outlined in the Sigaw proposed Constitution.


CODAL demands that the new justice to be appointed by Pres. Arroyo inhibit from voting on the Sigaw petition and other issues related to charter change to ensure credibility of the decision and avoid a constitutional crisis that will ensue should the Court’s decision be tainted with partiality. In fact, it is imperative on the new justice to recuse himself from deciding the Sigaw petition under Article VIII, Section 4 (2) which states that :

Sec. 4(2) All cases involving the constitutionality of a x x x law x x x and all other cases which under the Rules of Court are required to be heard en banc, including those involving the constitutionality, application, or operation of presidential decrees, orders x x x and other regulations shall be decided with the concurrence of a majority of the Members who ACTUALLY TOOK PART IN THE DELIBERATIONS ON THE ISSUES IN THE CASE AND VOTED THEREON. “

Since the new justice did not participate in the deliberation of the Sigaw petition, said justice cannot vote on that issue, as this is prohibited not only by the principles of delicadeza but also by an express provision of the Constitution. It is foolhardy therefore for charter change supporters to pin their hopes on the new appointee.

Reference Person : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares—Spokesperson

Date : October 30, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


CODAL condemns the pressure being applied to the Supreme Court, personally conducted and openly admitted by pro charter change advocates like Pres. Gloria Arroyo and Speaker Jose de Venecia. The people may express their opinion publicly in the exercise of their constitutional right to expression on such an important issue. However, personally lobbying Justices of the Supreme Court to decide in favor of the peoples initiative in exchange for promised rewards, is no longer an exercise of a constitutional right, but an unlawful attempt at bribery and a contemptuous attack on the independence of the Court particularly if the lobbying is done by those who have the power or influence to affect the appointment of members of the Court and its Chief Justice. We are aghast that a member of the Bar in the person of the Justice Secretary while rebuking the Chief Justice, the person being “pressured”, found nothing wrong with the acts of those who pressure. We urge those who seek to pressure the Supreme Court in exchange for promised rewards to desist from personally and directly lobbying members of the Court because such influence peddling is legally, constitutionally and morally wrong.

We ask members of the Supreme Court to assert their independence by shunning the intense pressure and deciding on the basis of what their conscience dictates as right under the law and the Constitution. The charter change issue is an important issue that merits an engaged public debate among the people who are free to express their opinion for or against charter change. While the Court should recognize the need for such a public expression of advocacy, it should not allow the kind of pressure openly admitted and justified by pro charter change advocates.

We believe that current charter change is for the benefit of everyone except the Filipino people. The Sigaw ng Bayan instigated ‘peoples initiative’ is also unconstitutional because, inter alia, (i) the proposed changes revises the Constitution, and is therefore constitutionally prohibited (ii) there is no enabling law as required by the Constitution and (iii) and it did not get the 3% and 12% signatures of the registered voters. We find the intense lobbying by local officials self serving since they will benefit from the ‘no election’ scenario under the new Constitution. Furthermore, we find it dangerous that the proposed Constitution provides for the creation of an interim parliament that, because it is empowered to further amend the Constitution, may not call for an election for years and perpetuate itself for a long time similar to Pres. Marcos’ interim government during martial law.

We express our dismay that due to the pressure and lobbying admitted by the Chief Justice and Speaker de Venecia, the Court’s decision on the initiative case is inextricably compromised. We urge members of the legal profession to rally against this insidious attempt to change the Constitution by violating it. We ask the Filipino people, to publicly give the proposed charter change their resounding disapproval and publicly disown the ‘initiative’ that was never ours in the first place.

Reference Person : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares

Date : October 25, 2006

Friday, October 06, 2006


CODAL urges the Senate to remove Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile as chairman of the Human Rights Committee for his anti-human rights position by ramming the Anti- Terrorism Bill in the Senate and for his lack of respect for the rights of other by threatening to slap another senator who objects to his sponsored bill. CODAL finds it incomprehensible why majority of the Senators voted Sen. Enrile to the Committee when he is sponsoring a bill considered anathema to civil liberties by the human rights community. Sen. Enrile, who helped implement martial law, cannot head a committee that will help implement the compensation of martial law victims considering that he has consistently refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing during martial law. He has publicly announced that he is remorseless for his role as martial law Defense Secretary and it is fair for the Senate to withdraw their votes for his chairmanship of the Human Rights Committee. Some CODAL lawyers were imprisoned during martial law under the direct orders of then Sec. Enrile.

Abolition of the Melo Commission

CODAL also seriously urges Pres. Gloria Arroyo to abolish the Melo Commission pending the passage of an enabling law implementing her executive order creating a fact finding body on the political killings. Such law will define the process for selecting the members, the procedure and the powers of the body. CODAL notes that the although the Davide Commission was created through AO 146, an administrative order, Pres. Corazon Aquino waited for Congress to pass a law before constituting the Commission. Congress passed Republic Act 6832 which expressly granted the Davide Commission contempt powers and the power to grant immunity.

Without the appropriate procedures that will generate credibility for a fact finding body, contempt powers that will ensure production of witnesses and evidence and the power to grant immunity, the Melo Commission is nothing but a ‘gatherer’ of evidence as Sec. Eduardo Ermita himself called the still born Truth Commission on electoral fraud. Malacanang previously proposed the creation of a truth commission to look into the Garcillano scandal through an administrative order “that will be patterned after the Davide Commission ….which was reinforced by a legislation passed by Congress. CODAL wishes to remind Malacanang that Sec. Ermita once said that ‘Without legislation, its (the fact finding body) just a gathering of facts.”

CODAL also condemns the killing of Bishop Alberto Ramento and reiterates its call for Pres. Gloria Arroyo to act swiftly to stop the killings of activists. Bishop Ramento was an outspoken critic of Pres. Arroyo and has been an active member of the Presidium of the Citizens Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA). He voted to find Pres. Arroyo culpable for graft and corruption, electoral fraud and human rights violations in the CCTA verdict. CODAL urges the police not to hastily conclude that the killing was an ordinary case of robbery as it may mislead investigators and cause the real criminals to escape investigation.

Reference Person: Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares (October 6, 2006)

Monday, October 02, 2006


CODAL is glad that the Supreme Court ordered the Comelec during the hearing on Oral Arguments to allow lawyers of oppositors to the peoples initiative, the opportunity to look into the documents submitted by SIGAW including the signature sheets and the certification by different COMELEC officials. The Supreme Court ordered the lawyers to submit their Memorandum of Arguments on or before October 11 together with any evidence on fraud or failure to achieve the 3% requirement in a particular district. Among the questioned districts pertain to Davao, South Cotabato, Makati, Roxas City and other districts in the Visayas.

On September 29 Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares together with Atty. Aquilino Pimentel III sent a letter to Comelec lawyer Dir. Alioden Dalaig, informing him of the dates when lawyers will go over the Sigaw documents. The date agreed with Comelec is October 4, 5, 6 and possibly October 7 or 9 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

The inspection will focus on the certifications issued by Comelec officers regarding their assertion that the 3% requirement was achieved in their respective municipalities, cities or provinces. Comelec officials who issued certifications without genuinely verifying the signatures submitted will be reported to the Supreme Court. The lawyers will also attempt to look into the signatures sheets although it cannot focus on the same due to lack of time. The Supreme Court is not a trier of facts and could not therefore tackle the voluminous documents showing massive fraud.

CODAL argues that in the absence of an enabling law and rules and the failure of Comelec to notify the oppositors, it was impossible for oppositors to have opposed the verification process in the districts. The 5 day period to inspect these documents is not sufficient to cover all districts.

Dismissing the Sigaw Petition a certainty

CODAL is certain that the Supreme Court will dismiss the petition filed by Atty.Raul Lambino asking the Court to declare that the Comelec gravely “abused its discretion’ when it dismissed the Sigaw petition.

Firstly, Comelec could not have abused its ‘discretion’ when it merely implemented the Supreme Court injunction in Santiago vs. Comelec. The Sigaw petition will definitely be dismissed since following a Supreme Court order can never be interpreted as abuse.

Secondly, the petition is for a ‘revision’ which the Constitution does not allow the exercise of under a peoples initiative. Sol. Gen. Eduardo Nachura admitted during the Oral Arguments that a peoples initiative cannot undertake a revision of the Constitution.

Thirdly, there are other fatal defects in the Petition notably:

a. issues of fraud or the failure to get the signatures of 3% of registered voters in all legislative districts. The case of South Cotabato and General Santos raised in the petition filed by former congresswoman Lualhati Antonino, was mentioned during the oral arguments as one of the areas which must be looked into the opposition lawyers.

b. Support given by local officials in the initiative including the funding of Sigaw. CODAL finds impossible and untenable the statement by Sigaw during the hearing that their total budget is a mere P3 M when the 600,000 signature sheets alone would have cause P 2 M. SIGAW mustalso explain the funding for their almost daily newspaper and TV ads which could now amount to more than P200 M.

c. The admission by Sigaw during the hearing that they only reproduced 100,000 copies of the petition shows that the petition could not have been attached to many of the 600,000 signature sheets signed by voters. CODAL believes that only this admission is fatal to the petition since signature by voters in signatures shets without the attached petition is void.

d. The admission by Sigaw, during the interpellation of Justice Quisumbing, that the signatories did not know that the proposed charter change allows for no election in 2007 is also fatal since this constitutes misrepresentation by the petitioners.

CODAL is confident that the petition for a peoples initiative is doomed to die a natural death due to its fatal flaws even if the Court will reverse Santiago and declare the adequacy of RA 6735, the initiatives law found inadequate in Santiago. The additional arguments of fraud and misrepresentation are only extra nails in the coffin of Sigaw.

Lawyers will make an initial viewing of the Sigaw documents before Dir. Dalaig on October 4.

Reference Person : Atty. Neri Colmenares

Date : October 2, 2006