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Dec 12

Now you see it, now you don’t

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In one fell swoop, Congress and the Supreme Court has been rendered unable to exercise the Constitutional oversight they’re supposed to, when presidents impose martial law or suspend the writ.

This brings me to something I wanted to point out, considering Day One and Day Two of the joint session of Congress convened for the purpose of deciding whether or not to revoke martial law: the power, as Rep. Locsin suggested on TV in response to the announcement of the lifting, of martial law lies in its being more of a psychological tool than a legal one. When martial law was imposed, the Ampatuans were dared, in effect, to call the President’s bluff. They did not, they folded. But having folded, they then have ample opportunity, within the limited comforts of their various holding cells, to see just how toothless martial law really is.

If you go over the testimony of the Secretary of Justice, she seemed to propose that martial law allowed for warrantless arrests, searches and seizures and that with most other aspects of martial law (as commonly understood) having been stripped away under the present Constitution, that warrantless arrests and searches were the main legal benefits of martial law.

Senator Pangilinan questioned the search and seizure part, while most other questions suggested warrantless arrests were justified strictly in the sense that rebellion is a continuing crime. By the second day of her testimony, Sec. Devanadera chose to be mute and defenseless in terms of the “legal impediments” question that Sen. Biazon zeroed in on: perhaps, by this time, she was conscious of the implications of the points raised by Pangilinan and that any murder-related evidence might end up tossed out by the courts on the “fruits of the poisoned tree” principle.

Not to mention the rather shaky grounds for asserting there was a rebellion instead of say, sedition taking place.

Sen. Gordon, too, had begun to dangerously zero in on official accountability for arms and ammunition secured by the Ampatuans, officially or not, from the Department of National Defense and the Philippine National Police: he was quite obviously springing a trap not just for Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, but for his predecessor, who at about the same time was reiterating that the President had allowed him free rein in running the Defense department.

So all in all, the time had come to pull the plug on martial law, because whether or not the Palace had the numbers in Congress and possibly even in the Supreme Court, the political points the President initially scored had begun to be whittled away.

Perhaps on the assumption that while the cat is away the mice will play, trouble began to erupt in other provinces and the appeal of an administration ally, Rep. Dimaporo, for martial law in his province and a similar appeal by a Catholic bishop, might’ve led to an uncontrollable martial law fad on one hand, precisely pushing the President to a line even the admirers of her imposing martial law in Maguindanao expressed misgivings about, and on the other, for various armed gangs and rebel groups to step up their activities, thinking the military and police are overstretched.

Also, in terms of Congress and the Supreme Court, subjecting the Palace assertions of rebellion and its legal interpretation of martial law powers to too sustained a scrutiny, might’ve ended up laying down too many precedents other than the main one the President wanted to establish by being the first chief executive to proclaim martial law under the present Charter.

The President has once more exercised her powers and then pulled back before any conclusion permanently limiting her options in the future can be reached.

The public will now be looking to see not only if things calm down in Maguindanao, but whether the case against the perpetrators of the Ampatuan Massacre will have the book thrown at them or not.

CIDG-CIDU vs. Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., et al., IS No. XVI-INV-09L-00816 for Multiple Murder, will be the next arena on December 18, 2009 at 2 PM at the 3/F Multiple Purpose Building, Padre Faura, Manila. State Prosecutor Rassendell F. Gingoyon with Prosecuting Attorney Xerxes V. Garcia will be front and center on this one.

The initial stage will be the presentation of affidavits and other evidence, and a corresponding (what, 60 day?) period given the Ampatuans’ attorneys to respond; witnesses and even the lower-ranking accused will have to be secured for that time frame, just for starters; families of the victims, those intent on prosecuting the case, will have to be secured, too; there was initial talk of four survivors of the massacre and they will have to be secured, too. And the long tedium of the case will provide many opportunities for witnesses to recant or change their stories, or disappear, or, God forbid, families to “lose interest” in the case. And for the government’s actions to be scrutinized and its interpretation of what martial law makes legally permissible, challenged.

If any institutions deserve credit, on the whole, it’s the armed forces and the police, for being careful to avoid giving the impression they were chomping at the bit to relive the days of 1972.

20 comments

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  1. Jes

    From the LA Op-Ed piece you just linked to:

    “A study published by the Asia Foundation and conducted by Moctar I. Matuan of Mindanao State University-Marawi found that in 337 rido cases from 1994 to 2004, 798 people died and 104 were injured. Although 82 cases were filed in court, only eight assailants were imprisoned. “Not a single rido was settled by the Philippine justice system,” he said.”

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-thompson8-2009dec08,0,5789237.story

    With the legal cat-and-mouse play in Congress, I still dare say ML in Maguindanao effectively amputated the Ampatuans

  2. istambay_sakalye

    the way i see it that nothing is by accident when it comes to gma and her moves. she is the most calculating and cunning person. the declaration and sudden withdrawal of martial law is no accident. declaring martial to charge the ampatuans with lesser crime of rebellion and all so called evidences obtained through warrantless searches cannot be used for charges of murder against the ampatuans which carries a more stiffer penalty.

    if you look at it, why are the amptuans are not singing yet with all the so called dirt they know about gma? again, this is just a big moro-moro and we all got sucked into it. hook, line and sinker!

    call me me a cynic, but one thing i learn with gma and her minions they are a lot smarter than we give them credit. she is way smarter than marcos!

  3. UP n grad

    Two messages from GMA : (1) to warlords: that she will bring in the might of the AFP/PNP against them if they overstep into butchery; (2) to Pinoys-in-Pinas: what again is this rumor about Ampatuan/Garcification evidence evidence?

    Actually, a third. To voters 2nd-district-Pampanga: you like what you’ve seen, then elect GMA.

  4. superfreakonomics

    If you know someone in southeastern Uganda who is having a baby next year, you should hope with all your
    heart that the baby isn’t born in May. If so, it will be roughly 20 percent more likely to have visual, hearing,
    or learning disabilities as an adult.

    Three years from now, however, May would be a fine month to have a baby. But the danger will have only
    shifted, not disappeared; April would now be the cruelest month.

    What can possibly account for this bizarre pattern? Before you answer, consider this: the same pattern has
    been identified halfway across the world, in Michigan. In fact, a May birth in Michigan might carry an even
    greater risk than in Uganda.

    The economists Douglas Almond and Bhashkar Mazumder have a simple answer for this strange and
    troubling phenomenon: Ramadan.

    Some parts of Michigan have a substantial Muslim population, as does southeastern Uganda. Islam calls for
    a daytime fast from food and drink for the entire month of Ramadan. Most Muslim women participate even
    while pregnant; it’s not a round-the-clock fast, after all. Still, as Almond and Mazumder found by analyzing
    years’ worth of natality data, babies that were in utero during Ramadan are more likely to exhibit
    developmental aftereffects. The magnitude of these effects depends on which month of gestation the baby
    is in when Ramadan falls. The effects are strongest when fasting coincides with the first month of
    pregnancy, but they can occur if the mother fasts at any time up to the eighth month.

    Islam follows a lunar calendar, so the month of Ramadan begins eleven days earlier each year. In 2009, it
    ran from August 21 to September 19, which made May 2010 the unluckiest month in which to be born.
    Three years later, with Ramadan beginning on July 20, April would be the riskiest birth month. The risk is
    magnified when Ramadan falls during summertime because there are more daylight hours—and, therefore,
    longer periods without food and drink. That’s why the birth effects can be stronger in Michigan, which has
    fifteen hours of daylight during summer, than in Uganda, which sits at the equator and therefore has
    roughly equal daylight hours year-round.

  5. LovelySoul

    Saturday, 12 Dec. 2009, the latest news a few hrs. ago was the Martial Law was lifted by your Pres.Arroyo. So, all these wranglings and speculations is over. Now, let’s move on if 57 + 2 babies killed in cold blood will ever get justice they deserved. Also, will the victim’s families ever get any reparations or indemnity for their unimaginable loss?

    Please do not veer away from the TRUE topic. MASS MURDERS of innocent, unarmed civilians whose only fault is filing a Cert of Candidacy in an Office located and controlled by Ampatuans.

  6. santaclaus

    Three Kingdoms
    http://threekingdoms.com/

    ebook in html – http://www.kongming.net/novel/dl/rotk.zip

  7. santaclaus

    Nicholas Tarling “The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia: Volume 1, From Early Times to c.1800″
    Cambridge University Press | 1993-01-29 | ISBN: 0521355052 | 672 pages | PDF | 40,4 MB

    http://depositfiles.com/files/21di0lubr
    http://w16.easy-share.com/1702395129.html
    http://letitbit.net/download/ccedfa808180/Cambridge-Hist-Southeast-Asia-1800.rar.html

  8. Carl

    “If any institutions deserve credit, on the whole, it’s the armed forces and the police, for being careful to avoid giving the impression they were chomping at the bit to relive the days of 1972.” – mlq3

    *************************************************************

    An occasional compliment never hurts.

  9. pilipino

    not so sure about that yet. we don’t know the details on what happened during those few days of ML especially on the handling of evidence.let’s just pray that they are more professional than the metrocoms and cosacs.

  10. J_AG

    Congratulations to the framers of the 1987 Constitution that reformatted the imposition of martial law.

    In light of the information revolution it was the free press that stood out.

    Even though the press in the Philippines is more mercenary than it is not the fact that is is there.

    It is the press more than the legislature and the courts that keep our Empress Dowager in line.

    Her privy council has shown their utter incompetence and the reality of the lack of resources will be the bane of those seeking justice for this massacre.

    There are two basic serious crimes to be tried. Premeditated mass murder and rebellion. These poor devils in the CIDG who do not even get money for their gas will be ill equipped against the huge battery of well paid lawyers.

    The rise of this culture of impunity is fueled by the realization by the powerful that the state is resource poor in implementing laws.

  11. grd

    An occasional compliment never hurts.

    *************************************************************

    agree.

  12. Bert

    “The rise of this culture of impunity is fueled by the realization by the powerful that the state is resource poor in implementing laws.”-J_AG

    When money and brute force are supreme, impunity is the law! Government in this case is useless.

  13. dOdOng

    “In one fell swoop, Congress and the Supreme Court has been rendered unable to exercise the Constitutional oversight”

    True for Congress but false for Supreme Court. Justice Secretary is still bound to answer SC despite the martial law lifting and SC can still decide on the legality.

  14. dOdOng

    “The President has once more exercised her powers and then pulled back before any conclusion permanently limiting her options in the future can be reached.”

    This can be appreciated if all or most of those appointed justices by President Arroyo will chose not to decide on legality to avoid clipping Executive powers. Let us see if Puno has the leadership of his own chamber.

  15. mlq3

    Bernas today has something interesting to say about the Ac and martial law:

    http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20091213-241862/After-martial-law-what

    With martial law lifted, however, there will be no occasion to discuss this academic issue.

    Incidentally, and this is now probably also an academic matter, I have also maintained that the power of the Supreme Court over a declaration of martial law is more limited than that of Congress. Aside from being able to interpret the meaning of rebellion, the Court can only review “the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation.” The Court cannot determine whether the choice of martial law is the correct solution to a factual situation.

    Congress has a broader power. Even if the factual basis for the proclamation is sufficient, Congress may still revoke the president’s decision. The Constitution does not limit the grounds upon which Congress may base revocation. However, the vote needed is a majority of all the members of Congress voting jointly. This does not seem to be easy of achievement in the present Congress.

  16. dOdOng

    There are 2 important issues to watch at judiciary.

    1. Admissability of evidences acquired through Martial Law.

    2. Deciding or not on the legality of Martial Law in Maguindanao.

  17. dOdOng

    “the Court can only review “the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation.”

    However limited as told by Bernas, SC will continue to act on the 7 petitions against Martial Law which will be discussed on Tuesday when the justices sit in an en banc session.

    Let us see by Tuesday or later what SC will say to confirm if Bernas is indeed right.

  18. UP n grad

    Agree with regards Congress, not the Supreme Court, as the one with the power. Had it been (when GMA declared martial law) that GMA had the stature of Zelaya/Honduras, the convening of Congress would have been within 24 hours along with troops to depose.
    =========
    Side-topic: Inquirer reports on latest presidential-election survey. Aquino-31%, Villar 24%, Erap-para-sa-mahirap 19%, Gibo 10%…. and beneficiary from recent weeks — Gordon rapid rise to 8%.

  19. Carl

    “Side-topic: Inquirer reports on latest presidential-election survey. Aquino-31%, Villar 24%, Erap-para-sa-mahirap 19%, Gibo 10%…. and beneficiary from recent weeks — Gordon rapid rise to 8%.”

    ***********************************************************

    Gibo, rising from 2% to 10%? That’s a five-fold increase. Not too shabby! Gordon, from almost nowhere to 8% is indeed impressive! Did the debates help to form these opinions? Gibo and Gordon have consistently performed well. Noynoy, has been his usual drab self. It seems to show in his dropping numbers.

  20. mlq3

    The only problem is the survey firm. It’s Managing Director Art Valenzuela’s claim to fame is he’s the one who put forward JDV would win in 1998. More important, it’s Ed Malay behind it, he’s FVR’s guy. Why is the Lakas spokesperson trumpeting Villar’s so-called “catching up”? Is Villar with Lakas?

    Only Pulse and SWS are considered to have a track record of dependability and consistency. What this is is push polling. Push polling is an old technique used to pull a frontrunners’ numbers down.

    The one to watch is what follows from this:

    http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/233934/villar-inches-closer-latest-sws-poll

    With Chiz dropping out and Noli, too. Where will their supporters go? And with the addition of Gordon, where will his support come from? If we assume Gibo’s strategy is to find a way to start with the President’s core constituency of 20% and hopefully add to it, and that a crowded field might flatten numbers enough, it gives him a fighting chance -what remains to be seen, though, is if the President’s 20% constituency is transferable.

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