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IN DEFENSE OF THE RULE OF LAW

Privilege Speech of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Jan 22, 2007

Posted: August 6th, 2008 @ 2:16am


With the Chamber’s kind indulgence, I rise again today on a matter of personal and collective privilege in protest of the unscrupulous and indecent haste with which former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. was sworn into office as permanent representative of the Philippines to the United Nations in New York barely two weeks ago.

Mr. Davide hurriedly took his oath of office before Mrs. Arroyo with impunity against the backdrop of the lavish extravaganza of the recently held 12“’ Asean Summit in Cebu.

This oathtaking took place on January 14, 2007, while deliberations on Mr. Davide’s nomination are still in progress, and while public hearings were still being conducted by the Commission on Appointments of Congress.

And this oathtaking was also brazenly undertaken despite the very strong opposition filed by concerned citizens, and while the same are still being heard and discussed in the Commission on Appointments. In fact, this oathtaking happened while the Commission on Appointments was still determining the legality and propriety of Mr. Davide’s nomination to this position, especially in the light of the pertinent provisions of Republic Act No. 7157, otherwise known as the Foreign Service Act of 1991. The relevant provision of this law, if I may recall and which cannot be given any other interpretation, is Section 23, which expressly provides that officers and employees of the Department of Foreign Affairs shall be compulsorily and automatically retired upon reaching the age of 65. The law also states that all incumbent non-career chiefs of mission who were 70 years old and above at the time of the effectivity of this law, shall hold office only until June 30, 1992, unless sooner removed by the appointing authority.

Clearly, this law seeks to prohibit any person who is 65 years of age and beyond from being appointed in the foreign service. This prohibition covers non-career appointees such as Mr. Davide.

I shall not delve nor dwell today on the merits, the pros and cons, or on the legality and logic of the opposition against the appointment of Mr. Davide who is, without question, well beyond the age of 70. I choose not to elaborate on these contentious issues today because I believe that they should be addressed and resolved by competent authority in a proper venue for the determination of the intent and spirit of this law. My concern, which led me to stand before this august Body, is the shameless, blatant and continuing disregard by this regime of the rule of law. The hasty and illegal oathtaking of Mr. Davide and his baseless assumption of office is just one of the countless instances and manifestations of this regime’s vulgar disregard for the rule of law.

This regime, led by an unelected and unelectable ruler and her minions, has for the nth time arrogantly disregarded established procedures, wantonly violated the rule of law, and had the temerity and gall to ignore simple courtesy and respect to a coequal branch of government.

We all remember that it was Mr. Davide, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who illegally administered the oath of office to Mrs. Arroyo six years ago at EDSA on January 20,2001, even though he hew very well that there is no basis for such oathtaking because there was still an incumbent president in Malacatiang, and as such there was no vacancy in the Office of the President. Now six years after, on or about the sixth anniversary of this flagrant act, it is Mrs. Arroyo’s turn to administer an illegal oath to Mr. Davide in connection with a position that is equivalent to an ambassador, even before he is confirmed by the Commission on Appointments in gross violation of our Constitution and existing laws.

Section 16, Article VI1 of the Constitution provides that:

The President shall nominate, and with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appoint the heads of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, or officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, and other officers whose appointments are vested in him in this Constitution.

Mrs. Arroyo and Mr. Davide are indeed two peas in a pod, and we, and the entire Filipino people, are the victims many times over of a lying, thieving, conniving partnership between Mrs. Arroyo and Mr. Davide, and their resulting illegitimate regime that has been caught, much too often, violating our Constitution and existing laws, disregarding due process, and ignoring lawful obligations and responsibilities.

Hanggang kailan kaya natin titiisin at papayagan ang garapal at hayagang pambabastos ng pamahalaang ita, hindi iamang sa Senado. hindi lamang sa mga kasapi ng Kongreso, hindi lamang sa mga kasapi ng Commission on Appointments, hindi lamang sa mararangal at iginagalang na mga ambassadors, chiefs of mission, foreign service officers at mga opisyal ng ating Kagawaran ng Foreign Affairs, kundi higit sa lahat, sa sambayanang Pilipino? Up to when are we to allow and tolerate this travesty and perversion of our Constitution and existing laws by a malicious and corrupt government that seems to have no understanding at all about good governance and respect for the rule of law?

Ito na ba talaga ang kultura ng pamahalaan na nangangasiwa sa atin ngayon? Walang modo, walang respeto. walang paggalang sa batas? Ito ba ang gobyerno na dapat namumuno sa atin nguyon? Kung hindi nang-aagaw ng posisyon ay nagnanakaw ng boto? At nang makaposisyon na ay walang inautupag kundi magnakaw ng salapi ng kabang bayan? At kapag nububuko, ayaw man lamang humarap at magpaliwanag sa Kongreso at sa sambayanang Pilipino? Ang Kongreso ba ay purang tau-tauhan na lamang at papayag magpa-insulto ng walang pukundangan? Dinaramdam ko, pero hindi ako maaaring magsawalang-kibo at lalo sigurong hindi dapat magsawalang-kibo ang Senadong ito.

I take issue with this matter today not only because I take offense and slight but also because, in a larger sense, this oathtaking incident establishes a bad precedent perpetuated by an equally bad and dubious “President.” I express apprehension that presidential nominations and appointments under this regime, which disregards the Constitution and existing laws and the rules and processes of the Commission on Appointments, will become established practice in due time.

I express concern that the time will come when the Commission on Appointments will become merely a rubberstamp commission, ignored and taken for granted, as has been the case with the rights and welfare of many of our people whose freedom has been unceremoniously trampled upon.

I also take this opportunity to protest and express my concern on the wanton removal, suspension and dismissal of duly elected local government officials, whose only fault is that they refuse to be subservient to Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her illegitimate regime. I strongly protest the excessive use of force in Iloilo just to remove the sitting governor who boldly dared to stand up and assert the mandate given to him by his constituents. I protest the suspension and dismissal of the other local government officials who were not accorded due process, and whose guilt is based only on the say-so of an Ombudgirl, known to dispense a selective sense of justice based on a script written, produced, and directed by her benefactors in Malacanang.

It seems that these events have become the trademark and hallmark of the Arroyo regime - the removal of duly elected officials based on flimsy, fabricated, and Malacanang-manufactured charges. Mrs. Arroyo’s dirty hand can be seen in all these removals. You can see her calling
card right there, from Makati to Pasay, from Batangas to Iloilo, and from Jaen to Sta. Rosa.
This modus operandi began when they staged a coup d’etat, and unceremoniously and unconstitutionally ousted President Joseph Estrada from office exactly six years ago in 2001. And it continues today with a vengeance against local officials known to be sympathetic to the opposition or are critical of Mrs. Arroyoand her minions. On the other hand, those known to have committed grave crimes and treachery against our people, against our Republic, against the Constitution, are instead rewarded with juicy government positions such as the generals who figured in the infamous “Hello, Garci” tapes, and the governor of Ilocos Sur who remains untouchable up to this date.

Governor Chavit Singson has at least nine plunder and graft and corruption cases pending before the Ombudsman or the Ombudsgirl. Among these cases, are the following:

1. OMB Case No. 0-01-923, which pertains to the ghost purchase of a backhoe worth P9.5 million. This case has been pending with the Ombudsman since 2001.

2. OMB Case No. 02-0008-A, which is about the overpriced purchase of a parcel of land in the town of Santa, Ilocos Sur, supposedly worth P26 million.

3. OMB Case No. 0-01-0989, which pertains to the awarding of rigged contracts by the provincial government of Ilocos Sur, resulting in the suspension by the Commission on Audit of the amount of P597 million and the disallowance of the amount of P153 million.

4. OMB Case No. CC-02-0343-G, regarding Governor Singson’s unliquidated cash advances in the total amount of P180.6 million.

Based on COA records, Mr. Singson recently attempted to liquidate this huge cash advances of P180.6 million by submitting spurious documents showing that he donated these funds to bogus NGOs and inexistent cooperatives, and even to the National Tobacco Administration.

5. OMB Case No. CC-02-0773-K, which pertains to his failure to declare in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities his ownership of the 80-foot luxury boat named Escalera.

6. OMB Case No. 0833, which is about the irregular release of provincial h d s amounting to P26 million to his dummy corporation, Multi-line Food Processing Plant International, Inc.

7. OMB Case No. 0-01-0974, which is about the P30 million balance on the misappropriated tobacco excise tax proceeds, which is not covered by his immunity as the star witness in the trumped-up plunder case against President Joseph Ejercito Estrada.

Like Chavit Singson and the Garci Generals, Mr. Davide also gets his reward, by hook or by crook. And it comes in the most crooked process.

Anim na taon na ang nakakaraan, hindi pa rin inaaksiyonan ng Ombudsman ang mga kaso nitong compt na gobernador ng Ilocos Sur. Samantalang iyong kay Governor Tupas, P85,000.00, sinuspendi at gusto pa nilang tanggalin bilang gobernador ng Iloilo.

Today, I ask this Body not to let this pass, and to join me in a spirit of concern by acting accordingly, and defend, not only this Chamber, not merely Congress, not even our individual selves, but the integrity and sanctity of the rule of law and our constitutional democracy.

I would like to inform the Body that I am taking the initiative to bring this matter to the United Nations headquarters in New York to request them to reject Mr. Davide’s appointment and credentials because his oathtaking and assumption of office have disregarded our Constitution, the Foreign Service Act of 1991, and above all, the rule of law.

I will inform the United Nations that his appointment and assumption of office is illegal, unconstitutional, and not in consonance with the standards and respected practices of appointment of a nation’s diplomatic representatives.

I ask for the Chamber’s support in this endeavor, and request that you join me in this bold step, and in whatever other legal remedies and avenues that are available to us. We must prevent this administration’s propensity of disregarding Congress and the system of checks and balance because this brings about the seeds and roots of authoritarianism and dictatorship.

We must defend and preserve our democracy, the value of human rights, our freedom and civil liberties, in this forlorn and forsaken country because this is our only insurance against any violent upheaval.

As I end, I quote the stern warning of the distinguished John F. Kennedy, who once said, and I quote, “Those who make a peaceful revolution impossible will make a violent revolution inevitable.”

Magandang hapon po at nawa ‘y magkaisa tayong lahat sa pagsalungat sa ganitong uri ng kalapastanganrm.

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Copyright © 2008 Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada

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