Saturday, March 1, 2008

Abolishing EO464 Would Not Abolish Executive Privilege or the Right Against Self-incrimination

Because those principles are actually contained in the Constitution and have now been unanimously reaffirmed, clarified, perfected and cast in stone by the Supreme Court decision, Senate v. Ermita. The President can revoke her own EO464 but not the High Court's GR 169777!

A PARENT OF A MINOR CHILD can issue an order requiring that child to always seek permission before playing with friends. Lifting such an order, would not however imply the abolition of the well-founded parental rights upon which the order was based.

So in fact, the President could abolish EO 464, and make a big show of sucking up to the good Shepherds of the Flock, but it would certainly not abolish the principles declared by the Supreme Court for this and all future Presidents on the proper appreciation and application of Executive Privilege. She could abolish EO464, but is duty bound to abide by Senate v. Ermita, which only PERFECTS EO 464!

In their recent Pastoral Letter, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines make six strong demands:

For this reason, we strongly:

1. Condemn the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political ladder;

2. Urge the President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found;

3. Recommend the abolition of EO 464 so that those who might have knowledge of any corruption in branches of government, may be free to testify before the appropriate investigating bodies;

4. Ask the President to allow her subordinates to reveal any corrupt acts, particularly about the ZTE-NBN deal, without being obstructed in their testimony no matter who is involved;

5. Appeal to our senators and the ombudsman to use their distinct and different powers of inquiry into alleged corruption cases not for their own interests but for the common good;

6. Call on media to be a positive resource of seeking the truth and combating corruption by objective reporting without bias and partiality, selective and tendentious reporting of facts;

The Bishops demand No. 3 that President Arroyo ABOLISH THE GAG RULE Executive Order No. 464 from the CBCP has been met by a suggestion from the Palace to "dialogue" with the Bishops in order to explain certain things to them.

First, that the Supreme Court in Senate v. Ermita UNANIMOUSLY upheld Section (1) of EO 464 which enunciates the broad classes of INFORMATION that are potentially covered by Executive Privilege.

Second, that the Supreme Court upheld the right of the President in Section 2(a) of EO 464 to require Department Heads (cabinet ministers) to seek her permission before attending any Congress hearing not properly in aid of legislation, or in an Question Hour.

Third, that the Supreme Court merely struck down Sections 2(b) and (3) of EO464 when in clarified that the Principle of Executive Privilege extends to classes of confidential information and not PERSONS.

Fourth, as I said in first reacting to Senate v. Ermita, King Solomon Cut the Baby in Half! The Palace got a slightly mitigated win, while the Opposition has to consider it a mitigated loss! This despite the mystifyingly fulsome praise that the Supreme Court got from the Media when the decision was first promulgated in 2006.

Indeed, I think that the historical significance of the unanimous Decision, Senate v. Ermita is that it is a TUTORIAL on Executive Privilege -- its nature, scope and application as a fundamental power inherent in the Separation of Powers of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court also interpreted the meaning of two key Constitutional provisions that empower Congress with its legislative and oversight powers:
[30] Sec. 21. The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure. The rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.

[31] Sec. 22. The heads of departments may upon their own initiative, with the consent of the President, or upon the request of either House, as the rules of each House shall provide, appear before and be heard by such House on any matter pertaining to their departments. Written questions shall be submitted to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives at least three days before their scheduled appearance. Interpellations shall not be limited to written questions, but may cover matters related thereto. When the security of the State or the public interest so requires and the President so states in writing, the appearance shall be conducted in executive session.

These provisions are related to the demand No. 4 of the Bishops in their Pastoral Letter, in which they strongly demand that the President's subordinates testify about corrupt acts "no matter who is involved." This sounds of course like a demand for SELF-INCRIMINATION. Hardly a reasonable things even coming form the good Bishops.

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