PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS
May 20, 2006 Issue
1.Cover: Lakas-CMD Rep. Faysah Dumarpa of Lanao del Sur
2. The Spy Who Got Caught and Caused Trouble
Former president Joseph Estrada, Sen. Panfilo Lacson and San Juan Mayor all say that the information they received from former Federal Bureau of Investigation analyst Leandro Aragoncillo are not classified. The contents of the files they received, they say, are widely known here. What they do not know, or perhaps play down, in the case of Lacson, a former National Police commander, is that anything, even just a newspaper clipping, that the FBI holds as classified is classified and unauthorized disclosure is a violation of national security laws. Worse in the case of Aragoncillo is that he stole the files from the vice president’s office in the White House and the discovery of his illegal acts led to the discovery that the United States is, in the words of House Minority Leader Francis Escudero, digging up dirt on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. While that certainly is true, the White House surely does not want its allies to know that it is snooping on them. Aragoncillo has pleaded guilty in a plea agreement to lessen his sentence. His contact, former Police Senior Superintended Michael Ray Aquino, is fighting the charges against him. Another associate of Lacson, Police Senior Superintendent Cesar Mancao, was arrested in Florida last month, but there are no reports yet about his link to Aragoncillo’s case. If the decision is left to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, the government would squeeze this scandal to the last drop to put Lacson, the Estradas and former House speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella, also named as having received classified information from Aragoncillo but who has not broken his silence on this case. But what Philippine laws have been violated here? The reports from the United States say Aragoncillo passed classified information to Filipino politicians who are trying to “overthrow” Mrs. Arroyo. Do the Americans mean “overthrow” the way Filipino politicians understand “overthrow”? To be sure, the White House and the United States Congress are aware that the opposition is trying to remove Mrs. Arroyo from office and factions in the military are trying to overthrow her. To be sure, too, the White House is aware of Mrs. Arroyo’s dictatorial tactics in trying to save her presidency. As in the 1980s, the opposition politicians today are patriots who trying to topple what they see as an illegitimate ruler who, like Ferdinand Marcos toward the end of his rule, may be losing support in Washington. For Gonzales, however, that’s rebellion, the case that he believes the government can bring against Lacson, Fuentebella and the Estradas. He is also talking of extradition for the four, although none of them has been indicted in the United States. But on what will the government rest a charge of rebellion against the four, receiving digests of the news in the Philippine Daily Inquirer from Aragoncillo
By Ricky S. Torre
3. You’re Not Free Yet
The Justice Department never had a case against Party-list Representatives Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Teodoro Casiño, Joel Virador and Rafael Mariano. They are accused of rebellion, but the Justice Department could not cite a specific act against any of the five that support the charges—only narrations of events that happened during the time of Ferdinand Marcos and allegations that the five are aiding communist rebels. The stupidity of it all is they are being linked even to the Plaza Miranda bombing in 1970, an event that happened when some of them are too young to be involved. Casiño, for example, was only 2 years old at the time. The Justice Department, however, insists that because rebellion is a continuing crime, the five are responsible for acts that have been committed against the government since the communist insurgency erupted in 1969. That thing about a continuing act may be legally correct, but, except for Ocampo, who was pardoned by President Corazon Aquino in 1986, which of the five has been committing rebellion since 1969? No wonder the court refused to accept the amended complaint to implead the five and former senator Gregorio Honasan with Party-list Rep. Crispin Beltran, whose case, too, may now be junked. Beltran also received presidential pardon in 1986, and Congress repealed the subversion law during the term of President Fidel Ramos. The five lawmakers walked to freedom on Monday. The Justice Department, however, is not accepting defeat. In yet another impolitic remark, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales told the five to “go back to the mountains” because the government would not stop until it could imprison them.
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia
4.It’s Not Over Yet
Contrary to the Free Press’s view, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales says the Supreme Court’s striking down EO 464, the “calibrated preemptive respons” to street protests, and Proclamation No. 1017 weakens President Arroyo. The administration will appeal the rulings. Why should the rulings weaken Mrs. Arroyo? She never had the power to conceal executive wrongdoings from Congress, or the power to prevent street protests, or the power to intimidate and prosecute the political opposition. Her powers are clearly defined by the Constitution and the laws. Ah, but then, Gonzales says the ruling on 1017 deprives Mrs. Arroyo the power to take over private business. Why does she want that power?
By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid
5. Don’t Be Too Sure
For the minority in the House of Representatives, the three adverse rulings by the Supreme Court against President Arroyo are proof that Mrs. Arroyo repeatedly violated the Constitution. Her actions are impeachable offenses, the minority says, so come July she can expect another impeachment fight and this time, minority lawmakers say, the impeachment bill will go to the Senate. Oh? The opposition should study the rulings carefully. Parts of the orders that have been stricken down are legal, and this is Malacañang’s defense against any charge of violation of the Constitution against Mrs. Arroyo. And even if the policies have been struck down in their entirety, the House minority still has a solid wall to bust before they can transmit the impeachment bill to the Senate: greed.
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia