July 8, 2006 Issue
Cover: Parañaque Mayor Bernardo Bernabe (with 8-page full-color supplement, Parañaque City)
1. The People vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
A group of citizens led by a daughter of President Manuel L. Quezon and a national artist for literature files a complaint for the impeachment of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the House of Representatives on Monday. The complaint, signed by nearly 300 private citizens and endorsed by House Minority Leader Francis Escudero and PMP Rep. Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan, raises the same charges in the first complaint that the House majority dismissed last year on a technicality: electoral fraud, lying, cheating and breach of public trust, but adds violations of the Constitution using as evidence the Supreme Court rulings against Mrs. Arroyo’s mailed-fist policy on street protests without permits, prohibition to government, military and police officials to testify in any congressional investigation without her permission, and declaration of a state of national emergency in February to crush opposition to her rule. On Tuesday former vice president Teofisto Guingona files a complaint in intervention on behalf of the “people’s tribunal” that tried and found Mrs. Arroyo guilty of crimes against the people. At least two more complaints are expected to be brought in the House against Mrs. Arroyo, who is in the Vatican on the first leg of a European trip.
Malacañang is not at all disturbed, confident that Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the House will protect the President as they did last year. Last week, Mrs. Arroyo’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, asked the House not to entertain any new impeachment complaint against Mrs. Arroyo, saying that the first impeachment process is not yet over because the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on a petition brought last year by Lakas Rep. Clavel Martinez of Cebu asking the court for a review of the House’s action on the first complaint. Commentators say, however, that this is not a problem because the Supreme Court has not acted on the petition, and Martinez and her seven co-petitioners can just withdraw their petition if necessary. The bigger question for the new complaint is whether it can hurdle the procedural barrier in the House. At least 78 legislators (three-fourths of the remaining members of the House; Reps. Rolando Andaya and Ronaldo Puno have joined the executive) need to support the complaint for it to go the Senate. To be sure, the majority will again use sheer numbers to defeat the complaint.
By Ricky S. Torre andWendell Vigilia
2. One Voice: Let the Constitution Alone
A new group composed of former election officials, Catholic bishops and prominent citizens has risen to try to stop the Arroyo administration from revising the Constitution to perpetuate current officials in power. The new group, Once Voice, will also try to stop the bogus “people’s initiative,” a signature campaign being undertaken not by the people but by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, to force the amendment of the Constitution by Congress. How? The group will conduct community discussions to explain to the people the country’s problems hoping that the people will understand that the solutions are not a parliamentary government run by the same officials and a unicameral legislature dominated by the allies of President Arroyo, but social and political reforms. This strategy will work in the referendum on the proposed new constitution, but will not stop President Arroyo and her allies from rewriting the Constitution, submitting a new one to a referendum, and rigging the vote to ensure the approval of their ticket to continued stay in power. The only way to stop the administration-sponsored “people’s initiative” is to challenge its legality in the Supreme Court, but if One Voice is planning to do this it is not saying at this point. Dropping all pretenses at noninvolvement, Malacañang says there is no turning back—the co-opted Commission on Elections will validate the signatures from the government-financed campaign, Congress will sit as an “interim parliament” in July, and the amendment of the Constitution will proceed in August. (Manolo, you’re a member of One Voice. Is One Voice going to the Supreme Court for a ruling on the people’s initiative?)
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia
3. Can You Kill an Insurgency?
Can you kill the communist insurgency? Not with an army. You can shoot all the communist insurgents in the mountains and in the jungles, but others will take their place. To kill an insurgency, or to drive it away, a government must eliminate the social and economic ills that send people to the mountain to fight for justice. The Arroyo administration does not get, but the Commission on Human Rights does: the P1 billion that President Arroyo is giving to the military and the police is better spent to deal with the country’s socio-economic problems. But no one in the administration is listening.
4. Alms for the Poor
The Metro Manila wage board has approved a raise of P25 in the minimum wage for workers in private busineses in the metropolis. What will that amount buy? A kilo of rice, a couple of tins of sardines, but not a bus ride from Monumento to Makati or a lunch at work. But that’s all the employers can give, according to the wage board. Wage Order No. 12 takes effect in July. The approved raise is P50 short of the P75 moderate labor filed for and P100 lower than the raise militant labor groups are demanding.
President Arroyo has signed a bill repealing the death penalty law, but this is not the end for anticrime activists. Dante Jimenez, head of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, has asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and the justices on the Supreme Court to find out if the tribunal indeed had made a judicial error in affirming the death sentence on Leo Echegaray in June 1996. Jimenez wants Panganiban and the justices who concurred in the court’s decision to be impeached.