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Thursday, February 23, 2012

No rhyme or reason


BY REY O. ARCILLA

MALAYA
‘The proposed closure of some diplomatic and consular posts will not be consistent with one of the three pillars of Noynoy’s foreign policy.’
TAKING the cue from his boss President Noynoy Aquino, Foreign Secretary Albert “Amboy” del Rosario has been very particular about showing his official, if not personal, concern for the welfare of our heroic OFWs. And rightly so. It is one of the three pillars of Noynoy’s foreign policy.
Del Rosario has made several trips to strife-torn Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and lately, to Iraq, to somehow ensure the safety and in some cases the smooth repatriation of our nationals in those countries.
Recently, however, Del Rosario announced that about ten diplomatic and consular posts will be closed to “rationalize the foreign service posts”. While there is a case to be made in four or five of those reported to be shut down, there definitely is no rhyme or reason for the closure of the others.
If indeed Ireland, Palau, Barcelona, Frankfurt and Saipan are in the list of those proposed to be closed, it would not be consistent with Noynoy’s policy. There are tens of thousands of Filipinos residing and working in those places.
And yet, in absolute contradiction of the supposed “rationalization” of foreign service posts, Portugal, where neither a good number of OFWs work nor with whom our bilateral trade relations are significant, is being re-opened merely to accommodate and recycle one Philippe Lhuillier whose track record as political envoy to Italy for some twelve years is, to be kind, dismal.
His appointment of Lhuillier has raised questions about Noynoy’s apparent lack of consistency in his “daang matuwid” crusade. Other examples of his inconsistency are the following reminders (for his action) which have been a regular feature in this space:
1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Administration during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency; 2) investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia; 3) facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments; and 4) expeditious action by the AFP on the case of Jonas Burgos.
***
With regard to the proposed closure of the consulate general in Frankfurt, Ms. Victoria Villar-Demmer, president of the UP Alumni Association, Germany chapter, in behalf of the Concerned Filipinos in Germany, wrote:
“We were encouraged by your recent article on the closure of diplomatic and consular posts, ‘Downsizing, not Closing’.
“All of us concerned and affected Filipinos in Germany hope and pray that there would be sincere and honest reconsideration, recomputation and reassessment of the facts and figures in the decision to close consular posts whose services are particularly important to many Filipinos, including that of the Philippine Consulate General Frankfurt.
“Your support and promotion of our cause would be appreciated.”
***
Attached to Villar-Demmer’s letter was a copy of “An Appeal for the Continued Services of the Philippine Consulate General Frankfurt” addressed to Noynoy, copy furnished, among others, VP Binay, Del Rosario, ES Ochoa and Ambassador Natividad in Berlin, to wit:
“We are Filipinos of legal standing and diverse purposes, and are one in the mission of advancing the welfare of all Filipinos living in Germany. We support the present administration’s thrust of good and honest governance. President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s vision of ‘Tuwid na Daan’ is also our dream for the Motherland. We believe that politics must be a tool to attain the common good and is a concrete expression of serving God and our fellowmen.
“We need the assistance provided by the Philippine Government to Filipino migrant workers in Germany where its city of Frankfurt and its neighboring areas is home to a considerable number of Filipinos who have made and are continuously making imprints in German society through their dedication and hard work, aside from being breadwinners of their families back home. Many Filipinos in Germany are part of the diaspora of overseas workers that is widely believed to be instrumental in keeping the Philippine economy afloat – a contribution that had labeled us modern-day heroes. The region of the former ‘West Germany’ has been the area where Filipinos are concentrated more than the ‘East’, where the Philippine Embassy to Germany (in Berlin) is located.
“The closure of the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) in Frankfurt would affect a major portion of about 40,000 Filipinos and their families living in Germany. They are continually confronted with a number of issues on their work, residency and immigrant status. For such issues and needs, traveling all the way to Berlin causes added hardship and financial strain. PCG Frankfurt has not only ably catered to Filipinos living in Frankfurt and neighboring regions but has made credible representation of the country in trade fairs such as Ambiente, Tendance, Christmas World and the world’s biggest International Book Fair. Frankfurt is the largest economic and financial center of the European Union. Most of the world’s banking and finance institutions are represented here. Not only is Frankfurt the seat of the European Central Bank, but also Germany’s Central Bank. Especially now that Germany is the central and strongest figure among the Euro-economies and in the European Union, in general, Frankfurt remains a major hub for trade, banking and finance. Further, the Frankfurt International Airport continues to be the main entry and exit point of Europe.
“PCG Frankfurt, which was opened in November 2008 and which started operating in March 2009, was established to rationalize the closing of the Bonn Office in 2008 and the Hamburg Consulate General in 2009. It is not difficult to imagine that opening a diplomatic mission is an expensive undertaking, not only involving the transfer of foreign service staff and their families but also the cost of refurbishing offices in accordance with the various consular services offered, such as issuance of passports and visas, document authentications and notarials, etc.
“An estimated 12,000 actions for consular services were rendered in 2011 alone. Closing a diplomatic mission after only three (3) years of existence may not only put the Philippine government in an unfavorable light especially with the host government, but also provides negative fodder to political cynics and disheartened Filipino citizens and their German relations and friends.
“We appeal to President Aquino to reconsider his approval of DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario’s decision to close PCG Frankfurt. With this, we call to mind the President’s ‘motto’ at his inaugural speech, ‘Kayo ang Boss ko’.
“We trust in the President’s sincere aspiration to serve the Filipino people and to continue in promoting the welfare of all Filipino citizens at home and wherever they may be in the world. Maintaining PCG Frankfurt would be a concrete manifestation and application of this noble theme.”
I daresay a stronger case cannot possibly be made for keeping the PCG Frankfurt open.
***
In my last column, I wrote:
“I, and many others I’m sure, am eagerly awaiting the action that will be taken by our government, specifically “Amboy” Del Rosario’s DFA, on the complaint planned to be filed by two Filipino women against American Dean Chang, second secretary in the US embassy.
“Chang reportedly almost ran over the two young women near a restaurant in Makati and instead of apologizing, verbally abused them. He reportedly even said something like the next time he sees them, he will run over them. Ugly!”
A good number of people, including foreigners, are keenly interested to know what happened to the case, Secretary del Rosario, Sir.
***
From Nicodemus de la Luz (a pen name) from North America:
“Two of the more glaring developments about justice obtaining in the old homeland as perceived by expatriate Filipinos over the past few years are:
“1. When Corazon Aquino sat as President of the Philippines, she should have devoted every ounce of her energy towards getting to the bottom
of who really assassinated her husband. To this day, it is still speculation and there is still no closure/conclusion whether it was truly FM or Imelda or whoever else. To the ordinary Juan, if a powerful entity like the President cannot even solve a monumental crime that was covered by world media, how can justice be expected by the poor taxpaying, law-abiding Juan?
“2. About all those generals who are scalawags: It is hard to believe that Fidel Ramos, a general who became president, did not know about the rotten ‘pabaon’ system. And it was Ramos, if we remember right, who placed GMA at the helm through his maneuverings amongst the generals,
foremost of whom was Angelo Reyes. Is anyone courageous enough to ask Ramos about how Fort Bonifacio was sold to high stakers? Supposedly to modernize the AFP? Nasaan yung salapi?
“It is hoped that President Noynoy’s sweeping winds of change will also address the above swept-under-the-rug items. We expats all pray that Noynoy succeeds in slaying the festering dragons and will not be smitten in the process. God help the land of our forefathers during these crucial times!
“Please keep writing bravely, Ambassador Arcilla. You have countless believers and supporters behind you.”
***
A month ago, I wrote:
“I am one of those who earnestly believe that President Noynoy Aquino is dead serious about instituting reforms in government. I hasten to add, however, that I am also one who will never hesitate to question any of his moves that I think is not good for the greatest number of people or the national interest.” (Or is not consistent with his “daang matuwid” policy.)
Rufino L. Mendoza’s (of New York) reaction:
“While I read the above in your column, my thinking agrees with you that President Noynoy Aquino is dead serious about instituting reforms in the PH government.
“As a Phil-Am I hope and pray that he put behind bars those who would be proven guilty of his accusations.
“Now, there are other serious problems that are burying the Filipino people. Recently, an American citizen and his Filipina wife living in Tagaytay were robbed and killed in their own house. There were more killings, carnappings, banks and personal hold ups, ‘akyat bahay’, vehicular accidents caused by undisciplined motorists, and other street crimes.
“How would you suggest President Aquino solve these ‘way-of-life’ crimes before his term expires?
“Would it make sense if you publish in your column soon this matter once and for all?”
My suggestion is for Noynoy to bear down on his buddy and executive secretary Paquito Ochoa whom he made the “crime czar” sometime ago!
***
Today is the 292nd day of the fifth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.
***
Happy Valentine to all!
***
Email: roacrosshairs@yahoo.com

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

That terrible script of the defense worsened the SC’s woes

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR 
By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star
The Supreme Court (SC) created its own nightmare when it issued that TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) that prevents indefinitely the opening of Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona’s dollar bank accounts with PSBank (Philippine Savings Bank). Had the Senate politely refused to obey the TRO — the SC merely demonstrated how toothless it is to enforce its own orders. The Senate impeachment court could opt though to act with diplomacy by asking the Solicitor General to appeal to the SC to reconsider its TRO.
Widely regarded as a desperate move based on a very bad script, the defense panel of the impeachment trial hurled wild accusations during a press conference last Sunday evening. Judging from the media questions, apparently the defense panel failed to sell their line, which was clearly intended to influence the Senate’s Monday caucus on the TRO. Many Senators felt insulted instead.
It’s the Executive Branch of government, under President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy), that has the capability to enforce. As Commander in Chief, P-Noy commands both the military and the police forces. An alignment of the Executive and Legislative branches of government against the SC places the CJ and Associate Justices at a great disadvantage. The CJ and Associate Justices are not elected by the people but appointed by representatives of the people. With no real political base, unlike P-Noy and all the nationally elected Senators and District Representatives, the SC is easily isolated.
It isn’t surprising that there were two members of the clergy who immediately came to the aid of the SC after the TRO was announced. They were Fr. (Tito) Joaquin Bernas, SJ and Fr. Ranhilio Aquino of the San Beda Law School. The two of them were merely being consistent with their continued defense of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – CJ Renato Corona embattled interests. Their being consulted by media despite their track records reinforced the perception of some quarters that certain media harbor a point of view that they want to promote even before the facts are gathered.
As Philippine laws have been patterned after American laws, it would be good to refer to the celebrated case of Federal District Judge Walter Nixon versus the United States, which is a similar legal conflict to that of our SC and Senate Impeachment Court now.
From the United States Supreme Court Media, we secured the following facts of the case: “Walter Nixon, a Federal District Judge, was convicted of a felony, making false statements to a grand jury. The House of Representatives voted three articles of impeachment; impeachment in the Senate followed. In accordance with Senate Rule XI, a Senate committee heard the evidence and reported its findings. The full Senate convicted Nixon and sought to remove him from office. Nixon challenged Senate Rule XI in Federal Court on the ground that the rule violated the impeachment clause of the Constitution, which declares, “the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” The lower courts deemed the issue non-justiciable and declined to intervene in the dispute.”
By a unanimous 9 – 0 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the United States. In a nutshell, the decision stood on Legal provision: Article 1, Section 3, Paragraph 6.
It stated: “A unanimous Court held that the question of whether or not the Senate rule violated the US Constitution was non-justiciable since the Impeachment clause expressly granted that the “Senate shall have sole Power to try any impeachments.” The clause laid out specific regulations that were to be followed and as long as those guidelines were observed the courts would not rule upon the validity of other Senate procedures regarding impeachments. Chief Justice William Rehnquist observed that while the Supreme Court was the “ultimate interpreter of the Constitution,” a matter would be deemed non-justiciable when there was “a constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department.”
What weakens the SC position in this issue is that it appears to be protecting its Chief Justice and has overlooked three exemptions in the past when the SC allowed the opening of foreign currency accounts. The SC should utilize the face saving mechanism of revoking its highly controversial TRO upon appeal by the Solicitor General.
The SC cannot realistically expect the Senate to yield its sole and exclusive mandate to try impeachment cases. That’s asking too much from a country that had already felt defiled by the midnight appointment of the CJ — a wrong declared as legal by more or less the same Associate Justices who voted to issue the TRO. This is reversing the mandate of a president by 15 million voters to pave DAANG MATUWID (Straight Path) and eradicate our culture of corruption.
When push comes to shove, the SC will find just how fragile its non-political character is. In case the SC Justices are not well grounded on what the masses are thinking when it comes to this impeachment trial — they should realize that they’re up against a highly trusted president in an issue the masses have long complained about, the double standard of justice in our country.
* * *
Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In due time?


BY DUCKY PAREDES

MALAYA
‘We need a Court that can rise above their friendships and clients, rise above their biases and make sacrifices for the blind Lady Justice and the Country.’
HOW much has chicanery must be uncovered about a sitting Chief Justice before he is proven to be unfit for his lofty perch? Why doesn’t impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona want to open his dollar accounts? What is he hiding? He keeps saying that – in due time – he will reveal anything,
When will that be? When he retires in 2017?
On his deathbed? Pagputi ng uwak?
Is he afraid that disclosure of his hoard of dollars would open a can of worms, that his claimed four decades of “hard and honest toil” where he says he accumulated a lot of savings would turn out to be the proceeds of quite possibly under-the-table deals?
Corona may have won a reprieve with Monday’s vote by the Senate to honor the SC’s TRO on his dollar accounts, but whatever euphoria that might have given him is certainly temporary and may be very short-lived.
Even the senator-judges. who voted not to pick a fight with the SC, by honoring the Court’s TRO explain that they will go to the SC to argue for the lifting of the TRO, if only to avoid a constitutional crisis. Of course, every senator (except for, maybe, one) stoutly opposes any TRO that would stop the impeachment trial itself. If the Supreme Court issues such a TRO, then the SC would have created the full-blown constitutional crisis, not the Senator-Judges!
Even just the fact that we are entertaining the possibility of a serious constitutional crisis arising from the judiciary curtailing the power of the Senate sitting as an impeachment court to do its work already tells us that there must be changes in the present SC. We need a Court that can rise above their friendships and clients, rise above their biases and make sacrifices for the blind Lady Justice and the Country. I want to say that “If Corona has nothing to hide, why does he not voluntarily open his dollar accounts to public scrutiny”; but, heck, of course he has everything to hide.
Clearly, whatever monies he was putting away while in the government service belong to a forbidden hoard of less-than-legal earnings. If it were not, there would be no reason for him to withhold these amounts in reporting his Statements of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth.(SALN)
Opening Corona’s dollar accounts to public scrutiny is relevant and material to Article 2 of the impeachment complaint that says Corona failed to file accurate and timely statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs). The first two weeks of the impeachment trial have unearthed the fact that Corona has misdeclared and undervalued his real estate properties and bank accounts in his SALNs in the millions of pesos.
His team of topnotch lawyers suggests that these “inaccuracies” in Corona’s SALN can be “corrected” and are not an impeachable offense at all? What rot!
Persons of lesser positions have been put in jail for less. Shouldn’t the bar for the person who is fifth in line in the hierarchy of the country be held to a higher (rather than a lower) standard?
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello points out that the Supreme Court is using a double standard: “If the Supreme Court has sent two men to jail last year for dishonesty in their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), how come it has turned a blind eye to Chief Justice Renato Corona’s duplicity in his own SALN?”
Bello raised this question after realizing that Corona did not report in his 2003-2006 SALN that someone within his 6th degree of consanguinity was also working in the government — his wife Cristina was Chair, President and CEO of the Camp John Hay Development Authority.
Bello says the SC’s affirmation of the conviction of Rogelio Galeos and Paulino Ong for nepotism “smacked of double standard” when seen in the light of the TRO it issued to stop the scrutiny of Corona’s dollar accounts in PSBank.
“If what House prosecutors have unearthed would not be enough to convict Corona, nothing will. In fact, his P19.7 million deposit in PSBank and P12 million ending balance in 2010 at BPI should prove the deceitfulness in his SALNs.”
The other members of the Supreme Court should stop coddling their Chief Justice when he is breaking the law. The SC Justices should stand aside and let their Chief fight his own battles. If they continue to do their best to shield Corona, they will only destroy themselves and the SC — unless, of course, they are all in the same boat — with their own hidden funds in the least likely places.
The Supreme Court should not be a sanctuary for scoundrels, says Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. She’s right, of course; but, who listens to her among her peers?
***
We have a letter: “Thank you for that very nice article (Culture of Impunity at the SC) . We need more of such exposure against the abuses of the SC.
“Please send a copy to Fr. Bernas also and ask him to explain the aim of the framers of constitution in giving the power to impeach to congress and power to decide on Senate when they knew that it is impossible to have an all lawyers as its members. If by his arguments the Impeachment court’s decision could be reviewed by SC, definitely it will fail because of the lack of background in legislation. Hence impeachment court as envisioned by the framers should and must decide not by question of law alone but by what is truth, and this truth cannot be blocked by any technicality of law.
“Thank you and please write more to educate us.” — EJ Flores, Las Piñas
***
Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@yahoo.com

Monday, February 20, 2012

Corona goes back on his own words


BY AMADO P. MACASAET

MALAYA
‘Presiding Officer Enrile and Senator-Judge Defensor-Santiago cavalierly dismissed the Nixon case as one that applies only as a precedent In the US.’
OUR piece on the sanctity of the impeachment court and how it is beyond the pale of judicial authority merited the following comment from a lawyer who said his name is not as important as this thoughts on the subject:
***
An impeachment proceeding is a remedy for offenses against the people and entirely results from removal of impeachable officers from their positions for violating the mandate that public office is a public trust. In fact, in his separate opinion in Francisco Jr. vs. House of Representatives, 415 SCRA 44 (2003), involving the impeachment proceedings against then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., then Associate Justice Renato Corona wrote in his own words:
“Incorporated in the 1987 Constitution are devices meant to prevent abuse by the three branches of government. One Is the House of Representatives’ exclusive power of impeachment for the removal of impeachable officers from their positions for violating the mandate that public office is a public trust.
Impeachment under the Philippine Constitution, as a remedy for serious political offenses against the people, runs parallel to that of the U.S. Constitution whose framers regarded it as a political weapon against executive tyranny. It was meant to fend against the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the Chief Magistrate.
Even if an impeachable official enjoys immunity, he can still be removed in extreme cases to protect the public.”
Thus, Article XI is the exception to the general grant of power to the SC under Article VIII. The exception is manifest in the grant of the sole power to the Impeachment Court to try and decide all impeachment cases. The grant of sole power is clear and unqualified. Thus, the SC may not interfere in any aspect of the impeachment case.
Further, the ruling by the US Supreme Court in Nixon vs. United States, 506 U.S. 224 (1993), is persuasive considering that the provisions of the US Constitution on impeachment are practically the same as the provisions of our Constitution on impeachment.
Section 3(6), Article I of the US Constitution provides:
“The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.
When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the Members present”
Thus, in Nixon vs. United States, the US Supreme Court held that the power to try and decide cases of impeachment belongs only to the Senate. In interpreting the phrase “sole power”, the US Supreme Court said:
‘We think that the word ‘sole’ is of considerable significance.
Indeed, the word ‘sole’ appears only one other time in the Constitution-with respect to the House of Representatives’ Power of Impeachment.” Art. I. Sec. 2, cl. 5 . The common sense meaning of the word ‘sole’ is that the Senate alone shall have authority to determine whether an individual
should be acquitted or convicted. The dictionary definition bears this out. ‘Sole’ is defined as ‘having no companion,’ ‘solitary,’ ‘being the only one,’ and ‘functioning… independently and without assistance or interference.’.
If the courts may review the actions of the Senate in order to determine whether that body ‘tried’ an impeached official. It is difficult to see how the Senate would be ‘functioning …
independently and without assistance or interference …
***
“There are two additional reasons why the Judiciary. and the Supreme Court in particular, were not chosen to have any role in impeachments. First, the framers recognized that most likely there would be two sets of proceedings for individuals who commit impeachable offenses–the impeachment trial and a separate
criminal trial. In fact, the Constitution explicitly provides for two separate proceedings.
The Framers deliberately separated the two forums to avoid raising the specter of bias and to ensure independent judgments:
‘Would it be proper that the persons, who had disposed of his fame and his most valuable rights as a citizen in one trial, should in another trial, for the same offence, be also the disposers of his life and his fortune?
Would there not be the greatest reason to apprehend, that error in the first sentence would be the parent of error in the second sentence? That the strong bias of one decision would be apt to overrule the influence of any new lights, which might be brought to vary the complexion of another decision?.
Certainly judicial review of the Senate’s “trial” would introduce the same risk of bias as would participation in the trial itself.
Second, Judicial review would be inconsistent with the framers’ insistence that our system be one of checks and balances. In our constitutional system, impeachment was designed to be the only check o n the Judicial Branch by the Legislature. On the topic of judicial accountability, Hamilton wrote:
‘The precautions for their responsibility are comprised in the article respecting impeachments. They are liable to be impeached for mal conduct by the House of Representatives, and tried by the Senate, and if convicted, may be dismissed from office and disqualified for holding any other.
This is the only provision on the point, which is consistent with the necessary independence of the judicial character, ‘and is the only one which we find in our own constitution in respect to our own judges.
Judicial involvement in impeachment proceedings, even if only for purposes of Judicial review, is counterintuitive because it would eviscerate the important constitutional check” placed on the Judiciary by the Framers.
Nixon’s argument would place final reviewing authority with respect to impeachments in the hands of the same body that the impeachment process is meant to regulate.
Nevertheless, Nixon argues that judicial review is necessary in order to place a check on the Legislature. Nixon fears that if the Senate is given unreviewable authority to interpret the Impeachment Trial Clause, there is a grave risk that the Senate will usurp judicial power. The Framers anticipated this objection and created two constitutional safeguards to keep the Senate in check. The first safeguard is that the whole of the impeachment power is divided between the two legislative bodies, with the House given the right to accuse and the
Senate given the right to judge.
This split of authority avoids the inconvenience of making the same persons both accusers and judges; and guards against the danger of persecution from the prevalency of a factious spirit in either of those
branches. The second safeguard is the two-thirds supermajority vote requirement. Hamilton explained that “[a]s the concurrence of two-thirds of the senate will be requisite to a condemnation, the security to innocence, from this additional circumstance, will be as complete as itself can desire.’
Presiding Officer Enrile and Senator-Judge Defensor-Santiago cavalierly dismissed the Nixon case as one that applies only as a precedent In the US.
However, what they failed to acknowledge is that the system of impeachment under our Constitution is drawn from the impeachment system provided under the US Constitution upon which the Nixon case was decided. Clearly, the Nixon case is instructive, at the least, on how the impeachment process is to be conducted.
In sum, interference by the SC in the impeachment trial violates and totally disregards the system of checks and balances under the Constitution and the constitutional provisions on accountability of public officers.