Listen to the accompanying (MP3) of Press Sec. IGNACIO BUNYE on June 6, 2005 at Malacanang Palace confirming it is the President's Voice in the Garci Recording, oh but not Garci...
Last year, on June 8, 2005, House Minority Floor Leader Francis Escudero delivered a Privileged Speech entitled “The Tale of Two Tapes” in which he demanded a Congressional investigation into the subject matter of the picture nearby. Taken two days earlier, on June 6, 2005 at a
Here is the Minority's very first objection, which has to do with Republic Act 4200, the Anti Wire Tapping Law...
"As what has been seen and heard during the hearings, the application of Republic Act No. 4200 has been severely misused and abused by the supporters of the Arroyo Administration. The heart of the issue was not whether the rights of the President under RA No. 4200 may have been violated, but whether the law unintentionally prevented the president for being held accountable for her crimes and misdemeanors. Arguments on technicalities were used such that the truth was drowned in the provisions of said law. Proposed amendments to RA 4200 should thus ensure that the grandstanding and legalspeak during the hearings will not be repeated as it has done nothing but obstruct a legitimate search for the truth. Noticeably however, the recommendations in the Committee Report on the matter of revisiting RA 4200 lacked an aggressive tone as to the particular amendments that could best address the problems that we faced in this “Gloriagate” controversy. The imperative need to come up with a distinction between private conversations and conversations clothed with public interest is surprisingly missing in the Committee Report. The hearings have made it apparent that public interest is paramount over any technicality or provision of law."It's pretty clear from the sentence above in red italics that Reps. Remulla and Escudero have bought into the Palace's own argument that as it currently stands, RA 4200 The Anti Wiretapping Law of 1965 somehow makes the Garci Recordings "poison fruits" because of their patently illegal provenance as either treasonous studio fakes or illegally wiretapped recordings that have also fallen into the public domain. They also seem to agree with ex-Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano who filed an undecided case in the Supreme Court last December. praying that the Garci recordings be legally suppressed, including, to expunge them from the Congress record. Why else would Chiz Escudero and Gilbert Remulla be trying to make a distinction between "private conversations" and "conversations clothed with public interest" if they did not think that the Garci conversations belonged to the former category? Why else would they demand a more "aggressive tone" in the recommendations of the Joint Committee for revisiting RA 4200?
I found this statement (in red italics) extremely puzzling. The distinction they demand between "private conversations and conversations clothed with public interest" is already plainly and succinctly stated in R.A. 4200 Section (3A):
SECTION (3A)Nothing contained in this Act, however, shall render it unlawful or punishable for any peace officer, who is authorized by a written order of the Court, to execute any of the acts declared to be unlawful in the two preceding sections in cases involving the crimes of treason, espionage, provoking war and disloyalty in case of war, piracy, mutiny in the high seas, rebellion, conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion, inciting to rebellion, sedition, conspiracy to commit sedition, inciting to sedition, kidnapping as defined by the Revised Penal Code, and violations of Commonwealth Act No. 616, punishing espionage and other offenses against national security:These are the crimes (again in red italics) on whose purported participants R.A. 4200 allows "peace officers" to carry out wiretapping and eavesdropping operations on, or any of the other acts prohibited in Sections (1) and (2), under proper Court orders and oversight. The latter point is crucial. For WHO is to decide whether or not some activity, like a conversation, contains some matter of "public interest" that falls within one of the above categories! Why, a competent Court of Law! Naturally and appropriately. But, Reps. Remulla and Escudero seems to be under the impression the "misuse and abuse" of R.A. 4200 "unintentionally prevented the president from being held accountable for her crimes and misdemeanors, " and that "public interest" was not "held paramount over a technicality or provision of the law."
But that's not what I saw actually happening during the Garci hearings of the House Joint Committee. What actually happened during the two hearings at which Virgilio Garcillano testified was that the Opposition kept trying to get him to first admit that the voices on the Garci tapes were his and the President's, and to explain the meaning and content of their apparently wiretapped conversations. By refusing repeatedly to do so, Garcillano was effectively invoking the Fifth Amendment and refusing to incriminate himself. It is here that the answer also lies to the question posed by Escudero and Remulla about the proper balance between the Rights of Privacy and the Public's Right to Know . Here is a general principle that stands with simplicity and elegance and clarity (in comparison to Esudero and Remulla's muddled Objection)-- THE RIGHT OF THE PUBLIC TO KNOW ENDS WHERE THE RIGHTS OF PRIVACY BEGIN --AT EVERY CITIZEN'S RIGHT AGAINST SELF-INCRIMINATION.In one very important sense, R.A. 4200 is a living embodiment and extension of the Right Against Self-incrimination, which Americans call "taking the Fifth Amendment." The Antiwiretapping Law makes it ILLEGAL -- without a valid Court Order -- for ANYONE to wiretap or eavesdrop on ANY conversation. But R.A. 4200 also specifies the particular crimes and cases under which "any peace officer" may seek permission from a Court of Law to undertake any or all of those same banned activities! Thus when Garcillano invoked his "Rights of Privacy" and refused to answer the most damaging questions being asked in the Joint Congress Committee hearings, he was merely invoking his right against self-incrimination. This only happened because the Opposition WAS trying to make him, in effect, CONFESS in open hearing to crimes of VOTERIGGING and all the other crimes that the Garci Conversations certainly do imply or suggest, -- but do not conclusively prove -- were committed by him and others. I think that Virgilio Garcillano was really quite the wrong person to interrogate in the House to get an explanation of the WIRETAPPING crimes themselves. For he really had nothing to do with that operation, but was in fact its target. Nevertheless, the entire investigation centered on him because of the tantalizing possibility that the Garci recordings will somehow prove the suspicions and allegations that that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stole the 2004 national elections. But if we must characterize the "technicality or provision of the law" that was used by Garci, I would have to say that technicality was the Fifth Amendment. Garci did not use this formulation since the House hearings were "in-aid-of-Legislation" and not a trial. "Right to privacy"just sounds a lot less guilty than "I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me."
Above Summary of Objection is followed by the following Discussion, in which Escudero and Remulla display the kind of muddle-headed thinking that truly explains more than anything else, why Only the Opposition Can Save Gloria!
Amendment to Republic Act No. 4200 The hearings conducted by the Joint Congressional Committee has now made it necessary to distinguish between private conversations and those conversations clothed with public interest when it comes to the application of the AntiWiretapping Law. No less than Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J. has opined that the right to privacy under RA 4200 must be balanced against the right of the people to information, especially information of paramount public interest. He even went further in saying that the contents of the alleged wiretapped materials under inquiry are not merely of private concern as they are matters of public interest. This being said, RA 4200 must be amended such that communications involving the President, COMELEC Commissioners and other impeachable officials committing crimes while in their official capacity are matters of public interest and should not be protected by the AntiWiretapping Law. These recorded conversations must be admissible in evidence in any and all proceedings to ensure that such matters which have a direct impact on the public are disclosed and that RA 4200 will not be used by unscrupulous people to avoid liability. In exempting “public communications,” accountability is likewise highly guaranteed considering that public officials will be more circumspect in their public dealings and communications. Public interest is something in which the public, the community at large, has some pecuniary interest, or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected. It does not mean anything so narrow as mere curiosity, or as the interests of the particular localities which may be affected by the matters in question. It is interest shared by citizens generally in affairs of local, state or national government.1 There is no iota of doubt that the whole controversy involving Mr. Garcillano is one which is of public interest to the entire nation. The content of the Garci tapes has put to serious question the legitimacy of the Arroyo presidency. Questions such as was there widespread fraud and cheating during the last presidential elections and who are the people who should be held accountable for such illegal and immoral acts have surfaced. With these questions hanging in the balance, there is need to undertake a comprehensive study of Republic Act 4200 and espouse the need to make suitable recommendations for the revision of the said law, to include the muchneeded distinction between ordinary conversations and those which are of public concern. This however, the Committee Report surprisingly failed to state in its recommendations. Instead, the report delved greatly on proposals to expand the scope of allowable wiretaps, even allowing private entities to engage in wiretapping. We aver that on the contrary, any amendment should provide for stringent safeguards against possible abuse of the government’s capability to tap into private communications and should likewise limit wiretapping capabilities to national law enforcement agencies.
I disagree wholeheartedly! If Chiz and Remulla have their way, we shall end up THROWING THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATH WATER and giving up the protections of Senator Lorenzo Tanada's superbly crafted Law. In the first place they are asking for the right against self-incrimination to somehow be suspended for government officials, that they in essence be freely subjected to surveillance, wiretapping and espionage, just in case "they are committing impeachable crimes." Well, why stop there. Why not allow the State to monitor everyone, starting of course with the left-leaning party-list congressmen, the rebellious soldiers and media, in addition to Garcillano and the President? Bah! These two guys don't understand RA 4200 and no amount of scurrying under Fr. Bernas' constitutional skirts will make up for their apparent lack of comprehension of this crucially important point. No one can be made to confess to his own crimes! Or have his voice indict him without his consent!
The figure of speech, "to take the Fifth Amendment" comes from The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ratified in 1789) which declares that --
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.So you see it is not only "criminals" that are protected by the Fifth Amendment, nor their rights against self-incrimination, but the whole gamut of freedoms from the State's intrusions into our private lives and liberties. The right against self-incrimination is to me, the outer boundary of the rights of privacy.
Don't worry folks...tomorrow I will dissect the Majority's Report (with Teddy Boy's fingerprints all over it and a different mental somersault is urged...)