THE TRUTH IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL


I expected the recent decision of the Supreme Court declaring EO 1 creating the Truth Commission unconstitutional. I did so because I have known since the appointment of its current Chief Justice, that the court is one of the many institutions that have been weakened by former president Gloria Arroyo to ensure her impunity. In a previous published commentary, I said that a constitutional crisis would not be forthcoming if P Noy honors his campaign promise never to recognize what he himself described as a “midnight Chief Justice”. This, I said, has become a political question because it is on the basis of this promise , among others, that an overwhelming majority of the electorate elected him into office. Instead, I warned that a constitutional crisis in fact be would be forthcoming if it is the Court itself that abdicates from its primary mandate to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution.

By ruling that a toothless tiger such as the Truth Commisison is unconstitutional, the Court, in the exercise of its educational function, has effectively accorded Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo with impunity. First, it was the Ombudsman that told us that the former president could not be investigated for lying, cheating and stealing. Now, it is the Supreme Court telling us the same thing. Where should ordinary citizens now go for redress of grievances against public officials suspected to have breached the constitutional precept that public office is a public trust? Where should we go now to enforce this trust ? Until this decision, we thought we can go to the court of last resort.

Truth to tell is that I myself am not a big fan of this commission. I have written that it would be a toothless tiger unless it utilizes existing powers of the Department of Justice to conduct preliminary investigations, the Office of the Solicitor –General to file civil cases for forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council for forfeiture of dirty money. All these suggestions fell on deaf ears. But precisely because it is a toothless tiger, how on earth can it be unconstitutional?

Sure the commission will duplicate the functions of the Ombudsman. But since when did the enforcement of the country’s anti-graft laws become the sole monopoly of the Ombudsman? The last time I read our constitution, it is still provided that the power to enforce all laws is an executive function. Moreover, the duplication, unfortunately, is not just happening, even if we want it to happen. This is because the current Ombudsman has opted not to investigate, more so charge her appointing power with anything. Full stop.

And because the investigation of the possible commission of a crime is an inherently executive function, I find nothing unconstitutional in the fact the commission was both created and funded by the president. This is not the first fact-finding commission created. We have had the Agrava Commission, the Feliciano Commission, the Davide Commission and the Zenerosa Commission, to name a few. Al of them were created by sitting presidents and funded from lawful appropriations made by Congress to the Office of the President. None of these commissions were declared unconstitutional. It alarms me hence that one with only the power to unravel the truth is ironically, the commission declared to be unconstitutional.

Yes, there is also the objection that it violates the equal protection clause. But there can only be such a violation if among others, a rule is applied in a dissimilar manner to persons similarly situated. Where is this dissimilar treatment? Marcos was accused of widespread plunder and was dealt with by the Presidential Commission on Good Government. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, suspected of similar plunder, is now sought to be dealt with by the Truth Commission, minus the compulsory and sequestration power of the PCGG. Where is the dissimilar treatment? The fact that no commission was established against former presidents Ramos and Estrada is because neither could rival the avarice of either Marcos or GMA. Where then is the violation of equal protection?

In the final analysis, I myself disapproved of this Truth Commission because it could not bring Arroyo and her cohorts to justice. Even so, I was hoping that while Ombudsman Gutierrez is there to accord GMA impunity, the nation could at least ferret out the truth on such scandals such as Northrail, NBN-ZTE, Jose Pidal, the Macapagal Highway, Swine scam, and Hello Garci scandals. While the truth would not mean punishment for GMA and her cohorts, other truth commissions established in South Africa, Argentina and Australia have at least proven to contribute to the reparations of victims since to know the truth would enable them to begin the process of recovery. That was all that I expected of this Commission. And yet, with the vote of 10 men and a woman, even that is gone.

Will someone please tell me since when the quest for the truth has become unconstitutional?

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11 comments on “THE TRUTH IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

  1. Aminullah says:

    Sir Harry,I shiver, spine to cave in to thoughts justice and truth may take a back seat allow CGMA walk free from her serious infractions. I wonder though, why would money absconded from public coffers be more weighty than CGMA to answer for crimes of impunity in the Maguindanao incident? CGMA has command as Commander-in-Chief, she is directly responsible given the parameter abetting warlords take incredible power, be supplied with incredibly powerful arsenals. There were prior crimes of impunity committed by same warlords studies say, if by joining ICJ will net us justice save our nation from plunder and crimes of impunity, what is stopping us from doing so? Just curious…

  2. Renato Pacifico says:

    The Truth Commission is a vindictive body solely against Gloria.

    The benign0istas wanted a pro-benign0 Supreme Court to trample what is left of semblance justice.

    Every 6 years we have new president with their own designer constitution, designer Supreme Court and designer form of government.

    What else is new?

  3. Trosp says:

    I’m not sure if I’ll just leave your post as it is or would I inquire for some clarifications –

    H: “I did so because I have known since the appointment of its current Chief Justice, that the court is one of the many institutions that have been weakened by former president Gloria Arroyo to ensure her impunity.”

    So, as mandated by the constitution for the president to choose a chief justice, what should she has done to satisfy your parameter? Sit down and let that matter pass? Is there any precedent that an incumbent president let it pass and let the predecessor to make the choice?

    H: “By ruling that a toothless tiger such as the Truth Commisison is unconstitutional, the Court, in the exercise of its educational function, has effectively accorded Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo with impunity.”

    How? Does it mean lawsuits can’t be filed anymore against GMA in court on her alleged corruptions etc.?

    H: “First, it was the Ombudsman that told us that the former president could not be investigated for lying, cheating and stealing.”

    Is it really what the Ombudman has told us? Care to cite your source. I’ve got a feeling that that remark was reworded or there were sins of omission.

    H: “Where should ordinary citizens now go for redress of grievances against public officials suspected to have breached the constitutional precept that public office is a public trust? Where should we go now to enforce this trust ? Until this decision, we thought we can go to the court of last resort.”

    Don’t you think the court or the ombudsman is the proper forum? If a truth commission is where we can put our trust, so, what is the use of the court? Or you just want a trial by publicity?

    H: “But precisely because it is a toothless tiger, how on earth can it be unconstitutional?”

    As Senator Joker Arroyo has opined: “”Anything the President does via Executive Order does not have [the] force of [the] law. It does not have subpoena power.

    Best way to do it, form a commission that is enacted by Congress.”

    He said Congress can arm the commission with its much needed power to investigate and prosecute government officials in the past administration who have been accused of corruption.”

    Another question – why Penoy can’t do that simple thing?

    For it’s constitutionality thing, the Supreme Court has decided on it. Why is GMA is the sole person for that truth comission.

    (Perhaps, If Penoy would say that it is not, then, maybe, he has provided a list and then a raffle who will be the first one to be investigated).

    H: “Sure the commission will duplicate the functions of the Ombudsman. But since when did the enforcement of the country’s anti-graft laws become the sole monopoly of the Ombudsman?”

    And what happens o your previous remark – “Truth to tell is that I myself am not a big fan of this commission. I have written that it would be a toothless tiger unless it utilizes existing powers of the Department of Justice to conduct preliminary investigations, the Office of the Solicitor –General to file civil cases for forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council for forfeiture of dirty money. All these suggestions fell on deaf ears. But precisely because it is a toothless tiger, how on earth can it be unconstitutional?”

    H: ‘Where is the dissimilar treatment? The fact that no commission was established against former presidents Ramos and Estrada is because neither could rival the avarice of either Marcos or GMA. Where then is the violation of equal protection?”

    Care to show us the fact?

    H: “Will someone please tell me since when the quest for the truth has become unconstitutional?”

    What is the truth you want to have. That Ai Ai de las AlAs has broken up with her latest boyfriend?

    You can also watch Discovery or Crime Investigation serials if you want to have some ideas on how the truth are presented that don’t have to delve with constitutional thing.

    Let’s deal with facts.

    But then for Penoy, no matter what, if you’re against me, even you’re a janitor from a any government agency, I’m going to impeach you.

    • harryroque says:

      On point one, controversy is on whether GMA lawfully appointed a CJ during an election ban.
      On point two, its like the court said that while Merci is Ombudsman, no one hold GMA responsible for her sins;
      On point three, the Ombudsman opted not to investigate GMA for NBN-ZRE invoking presidential immunity;
      On point four, SC ALREADY ruled that President has power to create the Commission. Why should the court then limit its operations?

      • Trosp says:

        From what I know, sensitive discussions in a blog should at least cite sources.

        Perhaps, you’re comfortable with the style of posting blogs without citing sources.

        How can I have a decent discussion with you with your “say so” style? You can always make a claim that I’m wrong with your “say so”.

        Or the burden of proof, as your blog reader, should be on my part. Shall we say that I should be a responsible blog reader instead of the blogger who should be the one.

        Just read your last comment on this post.

        “On point one, controversy is on whether GMA lawfully appointed a CJ during an election ban.”

        The supreme court decided it was legal. (Or shall I say the appointment was made in daytime). You did not mention anything in your blog that the supreme court has a decision on it. Why?

        “On point two, its like the court said that while Merci is Ombudsman, no one hold GMA responsible for her sins;”

        You did not mention when it was said. Is it during the time when GMA was still the president? And what were the Ombudsman exact words? BTW, has GMA been convicted already just like Erap?

        “On point four, SC ALREADY ruled that President has power to create the Commission. Why should the court then limit its operations?”

        If we’re talking about the truth commission, in what planet is that SC? Am I missing this one?

        You’re really has an activist mind.

      • harryroque says:

        Offhand, the case on point one is that of De Castro v. JBC which you can access through the SC we page. Anent the Ombudsman case, that’s the decision in my case entitled Roque et al vs. GMA which was dismissed by the Ombudsman. Im sorry that there is no copy of the decision in the net. I hope to scan the decison and provide you with a copy hopefully by early next year. On point four, that the decision of the court in Lagman vs. Davide et al. You can access that too from the SC web page.

        So sorry that I have not answered you in detail. Please allow me to respond in the detailed manner that you want after the christmas rush. Thak you for visiting my blog and I look forward to further exchange of ideas with you.Merry christmas and a happy new year!

  4. Trosp says:

    For further clarification –

    H: ‘Where is the dissimilar treatment? The fact that no commission was established against former presidents Ramos and Estrada is because neither could rival the avarice of either Marcos or GMA. Where then is the violation of equal protection?”

    Care to show us the fact?

    What I mean is where is the fact that Ramos and Estrada could rival the avarice of either Marcos or GMA.

  5. Alexander says:

    When is the quest for truth unconstitutional?

    When the process you choose to arrive at it is.

  6. Alexander says:

    You’re a lawyer right? There are evidences that can show the culpability of a person and yet are not admitted in court, Why? Because they are obtained in violation of certain constitutional rights, right?

    So why spend time, money and effort to arrive at the truth when the mode of getting it can’t be used in court?

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