Home » This week's issue » Our issue for December 25, 2005

Our issue for December 25, 2005

December 24, 2005 Issue

Main Features

1.Cover: The Consultative Commission (with 10-page supplement on the constitutional amendment consultations)

After three months of consultations across the country, the 55-member Presidential Consultative Commission submits its report to Malacañang this week. The report contains the commission’s proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution that the Palace says it will respect. But the mood is different in the House of Representatives, which wants Congress itself to amend the Constitution. The House is waiting for the commission’s report and should this turn out radically different from the politicians’ plans, the House will challenge the legality of the commission in the Supreme Court. As of last weekend, the commission was redrafting the report to produce a compromise version free of the influence of the federalists in the consultative body. As it was, the draft report was partly based on the constitution of the Citizens Movement for a Federal Philippines and planned to be inserted into the Constitution. This will not do.

2. From Caper to High-Stakes Game

The senators are too harsh. They can cut the military intelligence budget, erase it altogether, and even reject the nomination of Gen. Generoso Senga as armed forces chief of staff but the military will not be able to identify the authority who gave the order to eavesdrop on President Arroyo’s telephone calls. That operation cannot have been official, although retired Navy officer Rex Robles believes the order came from the “highest authority.? In the military the highest authority is the president. But Mrs. Arroyo cannot have ordered military intelligence to intercept Virgilio Garcillano’s phone calls because she will be talking to him frequently during the counting of the votes (Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. says 15 times; Garcillano says only once). More likely is that in the course of their job, the MIG agents—14 of them, says witness Marietta Santos—hear the familiar voice of Mrs. Arroyo discussing what sounds like electoral shenanigan with Garcillano and, realizing later the potential value of the wiretaps, go on recording the phone calls and keep the tapes for future use. Whether all 14 conspire to use the tapes against Mrs. Arroyo is hard to say, but at least one of them, Air Force T/Sgt. Vidal Doble, motivated either by patriotism or disenchantment with Mrs. Arroyo or economic gain, hands over the tapes to former NBI deputy director Samuel Ong who, in turn, hands them over to some opposition group that sees the tapes as evidence of electoral fraud. How the tapes are propagated is inclear, but opposition lawyer Alan Paguia’s work shows the opposition plans to disclose the tapes to prove that Mrs. Arroyo is not the winner of the presidential election. This possibility jibes with the five House committees’ finding that there is a “conspiracy to embarrass the President? but the choice of words is wrong. It’s not a conspiracy because obviously the opposition believes it has damning evidence in its hands and with it tries to correct a wrong done to the nation through the election. The military is wrong. It should not tell Santos to prove her allegations. It should investigate again, including Santos’s statement to the Senate that Doble has turned around because the police are threatening him through his family. That’s apparent at the time of Doble’s doubling back but now it is confirmed. The military’s report on its own investigation needs approval of Mrs. Arroyo before it can be released. Mrs. Arroyo must return the report to the military with an order to reopen the investigation in the light of Santos’s statements to the Senate inquiry. But will she do that? Add Malacañang vomit, Senga’s confirmation hearing, Garcillano in the House.

By Ricky S. Torre, Wendell Vigilia and Butch Serrano

3. Things Are Getting Worse

President Arroyo’s approval ratings are plumbing the depths largely because of her harsh handling of the economy and the unresolved question of the legitimacy of her rule. But Malacañang, really stubborn, parries the minus 30 percent rating of Mrs. Arroyo with the slogan, “[government] is not about what is popular but what is right.? And then, amid fresh rumors of unauthorized troop movements and warnings of “deepening social disorder? and worsening corruption in the government, the Palace stupidly says Mrs. Arroyo’s ratings have nowhere to go but up. How, by her pulling up value-added tax to 12 percent next year and with it the prices of basic goods and services? By ignoring the voice of 60 percent of the population and staying in power?

By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid

4. Frozen Terror

Congress disperses this week for the holidays without passing Malacañang’s commitment to Washington—an terrorism bill. The Palace is calling on House Speaker Jose de Venecia, the “miracle worker,? to do something. But what can de Venecia do to make more than 230 legislators to agree on even just a definition of terrorism? The bill remains a sheaf of unacceptable proposals that it has been since its rushed preparation. Then it cannot be made a priority because more important to Congress is the 2006 budget, which is already delayed, and the proposal to amend the Constitution. But come to think of it, is there really a need to rush this bill? Will the US Embassy be bombed on December 17 if the bill doesn’t become law on December 16?

By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia

5. Golden Harvest

Was there really cheating in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games or was it the pressure of home turf and the advantage of foreign training that gave the games to the Filipino athletes?

By Ramiro C. Alvarez

Two (2) editorials

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  1. looking forward on your special con com issue. as cha cha might dominate public debates in the coming months, i hope you find the space to document the central parts of the con com paper. i would like to see how the honorable commissioners explain their no el proposal.

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