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Our issue for April 15, 2006

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS

April 15, 2006 Issue

Main Features

1.Cover: Kampi Rep. Amelia Villarosa

2. Charter Express

In the 1997 case Santiago v. Commission on Elections, the Supreme Court granted the petition of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, stopping the Comelec from verifying the signatures gathered by the supposedly private initiative Pirma, and ruling that “the Comelec should be permanently enjoined from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments to the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system.” That is very clear even to students of law. But the Arroyo administration doesn’t care what the Supreme Court ruling says. Confirming suspicions that her government is behind the signature campaign to force the amendment of the Constitution by people’s initiative, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo endorses the signature campaign as an expression of the “true power of the people,” but without admitting that her government is financing the bogus people’s initiative. “The old-time politicians of the status quo better stand back because this train has left the station,” she says. “It is time for politicians to stand back or get run over.” Her use of the train analogy is apt: her government is railroading the amendment of the Constitution to beat a July deadline for an “interim parliament” (see No. 3) where no complaint for Mrs. Arroyo’s impeachment can be filed because there is no impeachment in a parliamentary government. What the administration is doing is running over the rule of law; anybody who gets hurt can just go the Supreme Court to challenge the administration’s action. And that is exactly what the Comelec is doing, verifying the signatures despite the clear words of the 1997 Supreme Court ruling and daring the political opposition to question the verification in the high tribunal. The Senate is considering doing just that, but the minority in the House of Representatives is not stepping into the administration trap. Challenging the administration’s actions in the Supreme Court could result in a reversal of the 1997 ruling, and the administration is relying on support from the majority on the Court to reverse that ruling. Mrs. Arroyo has appointed former Court of Appeals justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. to fill the 15th and last vacant seat on the Supreme Court. She now has 11 appointees on the Court, including Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban who, although appointed to the Court by President Fidel Ramos was appointed chief justice by Mrs. Arroyo. But the House minority’s fear is based on uncertainty about the judicial independence of the majority on the Supreme Court. What if the magistrates are determined to uphold the rule of law? Didn’t President Corazon Aquino and President Fidel Ramos appoint justices to the Supreme Court who ruled against them later? The House minority’s plan is to sue government officials who would violate the Supreme Court ruling.

            By Ricky S. Torre and Wendell Vigilia

3. ‘Interim Parliament’

The people’s initiative applies only to specific amendments to the Constitution? Okay. Since that’s what the Constitution says, then let’s turn to Plan B. According to a plan by Speaker Jose de Venecia, the Comelec can finish the verification of the signature’s gathered by the Interior Department by May. After that, the proposal to change the presidential system of government to the parliamentary system can be submitted to the people for approval in a referendum. By July there will be no more Congress. There will be an “interim parliament” composed of the present members of the House of Representatives and the Senate that will work out the rest of the proposed amendments to the Constitution. It can be done. It will be done, period. Those who don’t agree, just shoot yourselves.

            By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia

4. Yes, They Cheated

It has always been known that fraud marred the 2004 elections, but it is only on Monday that an official of the Commission on Elections admitted it. Answering questions during the continuation of the Senate Committee on National Defense’s investigation into the Arroyo tapes, Election Commissioner Ressurreccion Borra says there indeed was cheating in the elections two years ago, but not only one side did it. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that even a senior election official has confirmed before an investigative body that there was cheating during the elections. Malacañang may consider Borra’s testimony irrelevant, but the cheating in at least six regions of the country that Borra has confirmed makes the charge of electoral fraud against President Arroyo even more credible. To what will this disclosure lead?

            By Guiller de Guzman and Butch Serrano

5. Let’s Play Jue . .

The small-town lottery is a good idea to eradicate the illegal jueteng. It’s legal, it will be used for charity, and it will benefit local governments and even the police. But how sure is the government that it can successfully replace jueteng, that is, jueteng will be no more. Right now, the jueteng lords are lining up for permits, to be sure to use the lottery as cover for their jueteng operations. The police are unhappy, because their take will be limited. The local politicians, too.

            By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid

Two editorials

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