The day has been topsy-turvy what with the news flying thick and fast, some of it false. The false news came fairly early in the day: a supposed walkout from their classes by cadets at the Philippine Military Academy. The other news was a meeting of grumpy old generals and a (apparently hastily-scheduled) command conference held by the President at Camp Crame (“loyalty check,” media said; simply a “full briefing,” the Palace said). The National Police dutifully announced it will comply with the President’s controversial Executive Order. The President followed her meeting with words aimed at the Senate which no president other than Marcos has made (if you think the President today is being persecuted by the Senate, look back on how presidents Quirino, Garcia, and Macapagal fared: the present Senate is treating her with kid gloves in comparison). Apparently taking the lead in an offensive against the Senate, including the Senate President.
Speaking about the controversial Executive Order, in a delightful balancing act, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court says neither the President nor the Senate have stepped out of constitutional bounds. Before you run off and start barking at the senate, read the description of its powers, including the non-legislative power of investigation and its contempt power. Then read Fr. Bernas and Edwin Lacierda, here and here, on the concept of “executive privilege,” and a further whimsical look by Lacierda at the executive order here. Then read Newsstand’s views on the order. Then read the relevant parts of the Constitution and our laws:
Section 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.
Article III, Bill of Rights
Section 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.
Section 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.
Section 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.
Since I have often condemned the existing political provisions of the Penal Code of the Philippines as a relict of colonial times, there’s this, which is being used by the administration:
Reference to Article 229 (Book II, Section Three):
Section Three. Ã¢â‚¬â€ Revelation of secrets
Art. 229. Revelation of secrets by an officer. Ã¢â‚¬â€ Any public officer who shall reveal any secret known to him by reason of his official capacity, or shall wrongfully deliver papers or copies of papers of which he may have charge and which should not be published, shall suffer the penalties of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, perpetual special disqualification and a fine not exceeding 2,000 pesos if the revelation of such secrets or the delivery of such papers shall have caused serious damage to the public interest; otherwise, the penalties of prision correccional in its minimum period, temporary special disqualification and a fine not exceeding 50 pesos shall be imposed.
Art. 230. Public officer revealing secrets of private individual. Ã¢â‚¬â€ Any public officer to whom the secrets of any private individual shall become known by reason of his office who shall reveal such secrets, shall suffer the penalties of arresto mayor and a fine not exceeding 1,000 pesos.
There are those who view the President’s recent order reasonable, under the separation of powers. But the Constitution protects only heads of departments, who, as cabinet members, are considered alter egos of the President. Once a person accepts an invitation, however, he or she, even if a cabinet member, is fair game: that is why they can have access to counsel if they so choose (Sec. Norberto Gonzalez apparently thought it not necessary to have counsel). I would hazard to think that in any other presidential system, including the American one, an order of the nature issued by the President at 1:30 a.m. in the morning on the day officers were to testify before the Senate, would be viewed as an usurpation of powers.
Then of course, predictions came true, and Hacienda Luisita is on the way to being broken up But the big news of the day has been the resignation of Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo. (What is an Ombudsman? It’s in Article XI, Secs. 5-14 of the Constitution).
And AM radio merrily reports troop movements.