UPDATE: The Supreme Court has issued a Resolution providing guidelines for the upcoming hearing on the habeas corpus petition on behalf of arrested PCGG Chairman Camilo Sabio. The Court identifies four issues:
1. Whether the publication of the Senate rules of procedure governing inquiries in aid of legislation is essential to effectivity and, if so, whether the rules have been published and if posting these on the Senate's website constitutes sufficient publication;
2. Whether the Senate committees on government corporations and public enterprises, and public services are vested with the power of contempt and can issue warrants of arrest;
3. If Section 4 (b) of Executive Order 1, or the PCCG charter, is constitutional; and
4. If the Senate Committee complied with the requirements set forth by the court in its ruling on Executive Order 464, the Malacañang order requiring government officials to get Presidential clearance before appearing before congressional inquiries.
In February, 1986 when Corazon Aquino signed Executive Order No. 1 creating the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) I bet she had no idea that the Commission would become part of the spoils of electoral victory for succeeding administrations--to be awarded to loyal political allies and supporters (snivelling and otherwise). Today, twenty years later, we see the truism that even the good milk spoils under the corruption of absolute power. We can see that corruption at work in the televised hubris of such persons Chairman Camilo Sabio and Commissioner Rick Abcede, GMA's appointees to the PCGG, who claim absolute immunity from accountability as public officers by quoting a provision in Cory's Executive Order:
(b) No member or staff of the commission shall be required to testify or produce evidence in any judicial, legislative or administrative proceeding concerning matters within its official cognizance.As the first chairman of the PCGG, former Sen. Jovito Salonga stated the other day, the present-day members of the PCGG cannot use this provision to evade testifying before the Congress. But standing on this provision in Executive Order No. 1 --which was indubitably supervened after the plebiscite ratifying the 1987 Philippine Constitution -- and agreeing to force the issue in the Supreme Court via an habeas corpus petition, Chairman Camilo Sabio may see it all blow up in his prideful face. The venerable Joker Arroyo, an erstwhile ally of the President, will argue before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Senate, which is still holding Sabio under arrest and actively hunting down the other fugitive Commissioners. Early today, word is that at least two of the PCGG commissioners have sent surrender feelers to the Senate Sergeant at Arms. Offered his freedom from detention at the Senate Building infirmary in exchange for "his word of honor to return to the Senate hearings" Camilo "the Wise" Sabio has refused Gordon's offer, proclaiming that "Only the Supreme Court can set me free." Ha! Those could be Sabio's famous last words
Senator Dick Gordon deserves the public's support in the work being done by the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises in ferreting out the corruption within the PCGG itself, which over the years, has become a feeding trough for the political appointees. In the era of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the evil that Marcos did has not been undone. It has been rebooted in a Twilight Zone kind of program in which chest-thumping do-gooders like Sabio are actually masking a ghoulish operation of well, replundering the stolen loot!
Senator Gordon is quite right that the PCGG cannot hold itself above the law, above accountability and transparency on the part of public officers as the Constitution requires. It would reduce the Constitution to absurdity if the Supreme Court were to somehow rule that the provision cited by Sabio in Executive Order No. 1 is still in force!
IN AID OF LEGISLATION The most wanted PCGG fugitive is of course the aforementioned Commissioner Rick Abcede, recently become notorious for being caught on video dancing (waltzing) with Madame Imelda Marcos. Speaking on the phone on Strictly Politics with Pia Hontiveros last night on ANC television, Rick Abcede excuses that rather embarrassing episode by claiming that he, Rick Abcede, is a "leader who means business" -- he claims to be tired of the accusations against him, who after all, claims to have joined the PCGG last June, 2005 is "only trying to get the Marcos money back for the people." And "Why?" Rick Abcede asks, doesn't the Senate investigate the previous commissioners of the PCGG instead of the present members?"
Oink! Well, Abcede has been caught with his snout in the trunk of a brand new Toyota Camry as just one of the special, illegal perks being alleged by the Senate committee investigating the PCGG feeding trough, so he's gotta mean business. But the best he could do was to lamely trot out the argument that Gordon's committee hearings are not about some pending legislation, hoping to catch some wind from the "in aid of legislation arguments." On this point, Pia Hontiveros' other guest, Dean Raul Pangalangan jammed the ball back in Abcede's face with the observation that the Supreme Court rulings on the matter of EO 464 do not augur well for the PCGG's case before the Supreme Court.
Well, we shall see just how wise Camilo Sabio really is, or, if like Abcede, he's doomed to defeat on this one.