(Update 2 — 3:24 p.m.) Allies of former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to nullify President Benigno Aquino III's Executive Order No. 1 creating the Truth Commission, the body that will probe anomalies that hounded the former Philippine leader.
In a 55-page petition, House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman and Representatives Rodolfo Albano Jr., Simeon Datumanong and Orlando Fua Jr. called the Truth Commission an "exercise in futility" as it duplicates the quasi-judicial powers of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice.
Also, the lawmakers asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order on the enforcement of Executive Order No. 1, which created the Truth Commission.
"This petition is seasonably interposed to challenge the constitutionality or validity of Executive Order No. 1 and the resolution of the issues raised herein is of critical immediacy since they involve the fundamental doctrine of separation of powers and abiding principle of rule of law as enshrined in the [1987 Constitution]," Arroyo's allies said in their petition.
Malacañang, however, maintained that the Truth Commission stands on solid legal ground.
"Sinabi na rin ni Pangulong Aquino, kung may problema sila isampa nila sa Supreme Court (As President Aquino said, if they have a problem with it they should file a case before the Supreme Court)," said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, referring to an earlier statement of President Benigno Aquino III.
President Aquino earlier said the Truth Commission will be headed by retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.
With the Arroyo-allied congressmen's case filed, three out of Aquino's so-far four executive orders are now being questioned before the Supreme Court. Aquino's EO No. 2 revoking Arroyo's "midnight appointments" and his EO No. 3 revoking the granting of Career Executive Service Officer Rank III to government lawyers in the executive department have also been questioned before the court.
On Thursday afternoon, Supreme Court administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the high tribunal will tackle the petition in an en banc, or full court, session on Tuesday.
"The petition will be included in the agenda of the en banc on Tuesday," said Marquez at a news briefing.
Named as respondents in the petition against the creation of the truth body were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. The petitioners added that Mr. Aquino's executive order violated the separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislative, saying only the latter has the authority to create a public office such as the Truth Commission.
Citing a provision of Book III, Chapter 10, Section 31 of the Administrative Code of 1987, the congressmen said EO No. 1 is illegitimate because it is not within the Office of the President's powers to issue such.
The lawmakers also argued that the EO No. 1 violated the equal protection clause because it only targeted specific individuals for prosecution “as if corruption is their peculiar species even as it excludes those of the other administrations, past and present, who may be indictable."
In this case, former President Arroyo is the core subject of the upcoming Truth Commission, whose composition is still to be finalized. . They added the creation of the "Philippine Truth Commission of 2010" violates the consistent and general international practice as truth commissions are usually created to exclusively investigate human rights violations. "The creation of the “Truth Commission" is an exercise in futility, an adventure in partisan hostility, a launching pad for trial/conviction by publicity and a mere populist propaganda to mistakenly impress the people that widespread poverty will altogether vanish if corruption is eliminated without even addressing the other major causes of poverty," the petitioners further said.
Palace ready to defend EO 1
At a press conference on Thursday, Lacierda said Malacañang is more than prepared to defend EO No. 1.
He said Arroyo allies' move to question the executive order was "a natural course of the opposition," adding that the Palace is "more than prepared" to defend itself.
Moreover, he reiterated that Malacañang believes the Truth Commission will be the "means" for a closure on the alleged corruption controversies during the Arroyo administration.
Major controversies during the Arroyo administration include the Hello Garci scandal where she was accused of calling up Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to rig the 2004 presidential elections; the P728-million fertilizer fund scam; and the ZTE national broadband network deal, which her administration eventually canceled.
The Truth Commission, according to EO No. 1, will "primarily seek and find the truth on, and toward this end, investigate reports of graft and corruption of such scale and magnitude that shock and offend the moral and ethical sensibilities of the people" during the Arroyo administration.
What about Arrroyo-formed commissions?
Despite the questions earlier raised by Lagman and the House minority bloc, the Aquino administration had repeatedly stood by the legality of the Truth Commission.
For one, Justice Sec. Leila de Lima said Mrs. Arroyo herself created investigative bodies — such as the Melo, Feliciano, and Zenarosa Commissions — during her tenure. De Lima questioned why allies of the Arroyo administration allies did not question the former President when she formed these bodies.
Mrs. Arroyo formed the Melo Commission in 2006. It was headed by former Supreme Court Associate Justice and now Commission on Elections chairman Jose Melo.
The Feliciano Commission, meanwhile, was formed in 2003 look into the circumstances that led into the infamous July 27, 2003 Oakwood Mutiny. It was headed by former Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano.
Another high-profile independent body was the three-member commission that investigated the celebrated “Alabang Boys" case in 2009, where three scions of affluent families were accused of peddling and using illegal narcotics.
Just this year, Mrs. Arroyo also formed the Zeñarosa Commission, headed by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Monina Arevalo-Zeñarosa, tasked to disband private armies. Its creation stemmed from the November 23 massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao province in which the Ampatuan clan and their supporters are being implicated. — with a report by Jam Sisante/LBG/RSJ, GMANews.TV
Reposted From GMA News.TV