August 19, 2006 Issue
Cover: The Life and Times and the Supplement of Alfonso Yuchengco
By Ricky S. Torre and Butch Serrano
1. Disorder Rules
Malacañang is forcing another confrontation with the Senate in the Supreme Court by pressing its policy of concealment to avoid explaining the mess that it has made of the evacuation of Filipino migrants trapped in the fighting in Lebanon. The Palace keeps to refuse to allow government officials to appear in the Senate investigation into the disposition of the Overseas Workers Welfare Fund. Theres more than P7 billion there in the migrants money, but the migrants in Lebanon are getting out in trickles on charity from the International Organization for Migration and from a Greek shipping magnate. Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the foreign relations committee who has introduced legislation that would amend the migrants law, and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, chairman of the labor committee, cannot get intelligent answers to questions about the chaotic evacuation and the Palace, twisting the Supreme Court ruling on EO 464 is insisting on guidelines for the appearance of government officials at Senate inquiries: the court has ruled that the Senate has power to summon officials to investigations in aid of legislation, but the Palace is ignoring that part of the ruling and claiming it has the right to refuse to allow officials to go to congressional questionings. That is the question hour, but the Palace is pretending not to know the difference. It has something to hide, of course, the transfer of OWWA funds to Philhealth for use in President Arroyos 2004 presidential campaign is an issue that remains unexplained. The fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas intensifies ahead of UN Security Council action and the danger has reached Filipinos in Haifa. Two weeks into the operation, the government has yet to show any kind of organization in coming to the aid of the migrants. Two vessels of the Coast Guard have been ordered to Lebanon but the vessels cannot leave Manila port because nobody ordered funds for the mission.
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia
2. The Monkey Business Begins
Lakas Rep. Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao, chairman of the House Committee on Justice, has promised Malacañang that if all goes well, the second attempt by the opposition to impeach President Arroyo will be over in six session days. The first day is Tuesday and sure enough the majority allies of Mrs. Arroyo on the committee kill seven of the eight complaints filed against Mrs. Arroyo on the technicality that these have been brought within the constitutional ban on bringing more than one impeachment complaint against the same official in one year. Only the complaint brought by 10 Cabinet members and presidential advisers and the Black and White Movement remains for determination of sufficiency in form and substance. Form is no problem. Substance means evidence, and the majority is determined not to allow the minority to present evidence at the committee level. And that means this complaint, too, is dead. Does the minority have a Plan B?
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia
3. Root of Disunity
What good are talks for cooperation and unity if the administration is imposing as ground rule not touching the question of the legitimacy of President Arroyos rule? Thats telling people to just go on after being robbed on the highway, as if nothing happened. This is exactly what the administration wants to happen in calling that secret meeting between its representatives and leaders of the opposition and the Catholic church. The church has been the first to balk at the brazenness of it. Imagine a prepared statement of unity to be signed by the president of the bishops conference. What made Malacañang even think of preparing a statement of unity and expect the church to sign it? The opposition and the church are not averse to working with the administration for a national agenda, even for unity. But first Mrs. Arroyo must prove to the nation that she is the truly elected president of the Philippines, because it is the question of her presidencys legitimacy that is causing disunity in this country.
With the opposition to the Arroyo administrations plot to stay in power beyond 2010 likely to reach the Supreme Court, it is safe to assume that elections will be held next year. Thats why Malacañang and the Commission on Elections are insisting on using the vote counting machines that the Supreme Court has found unprotected against human intervention. Insurance, as they say: if elections cannot be prevented, administration candidates will be annihilated at the polls, so the best way to manipulate the vote away from the eyes of an angry public is to use those vulnerable computers.
5. Only for Show
International pressure and a subtle US warning has forced President Arroyo to order the police to solve the extrajudicial killings of leftists and journalists. She give the police 10 weeks to solve the murders. Solve more than 200 murders in 10 weeks? How do the police even begin to do that? Shoot the Army commander said to be behind the killings perhaps? Mrs. Arroyo praised that officer in her speech to a joint session of Congress on July 24 and blamed the killings on communist rebels. Whats the sense in ordering the police to solve the murders when she herself has already solved them?