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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

On her arraignment GMA turned tables on P-Noy by submitting herself to due process, and challenging him to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law; Palace should stop defending Naguiat as this could affect P-Noy's ‘daang matuwid’ in a possible US congressional investigation on RICO Statute; JPE calms down anxieties of IBP officials and members at Laoag convention





It was obvious that the arraignment of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo before Pasay RTC Judge Jesus Mupas last Feb. 23 on the charge of electoral sabotage was meant to refresh the minds of people toward what the Aquino administration wanted to do---which was, to link impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona to GMA who had appointed him to the highest Supreme Court post a month before she stepped down from power.  But GMA wisely pulled the occasion in the direction SHE wanted and lectured a thing or two to President Aquino.
In her statement prior to arraignment, she said, “Despite the continuous and massive vilification campaign against me and my family, I have always said that I will dispute all charges “IN THE PROPER FORUM” (emphasis BOC’s), i.e., in the court of law. GMA stressed that she's submitting herself to the legal process, “not only to clear my name but also as part of my commitment to respect and abide by the rules and orders of our courts.” She ended with her “fervent hope that our leaders will uphold and our people have faith in the Constitution and the rule of law.”

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Thus, despite the disadvantage to her of a court that obviously is under the thumb of the Aquino administration (note how Mupas scored a Guiness Book record in speed-reading the stacks of documents that accompanied the Comelec-DOJ charge sheet accusing GMA and four others of electoral sabotage last Nov. 18), she turned her arraignment into an object lesson for P-Noy. GMA pointedly contrasted her full submission to the rule of law and due process, to the way President Noynoy continues to violate these same principles by pronouncing CJ Corona already guilty in forum after forum, even while his Senate trial is in full swing and his defense panel hasn't been able to present his side as yet. 


P-Noy's continuous savaging of  Corona is outright disrespect of the Senate, and in fact his spokesperson, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, even incited the senators to oppose the Supreme Court’s TRO on the Foreign Currency Deposits Act, after it was handed down. At the La Consolacion forum and again today, at the 26th EDSA celebration, P-Noy was heard calling for “people to decide the CJ’s fate, instead of a few.” Obviously he wants to seal Corona's fate outside the Senate trial court.
The contrast between our past and present leaders in obedience to the rule of law is as sharp as night and day.

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Ironically, now that he’s got a hot potato on his hands in the person of Pagcor Chair Cristino Naguiat, P-Noy asks that this close buddy and former Ateneo classmate “be presumed innocent until proven guilty, just like CJ Corona.”  But he never presumed his SC adversary to be innocent at all. It only goes to show that P-Noy maintains a double standard, one for his adversaries and another for the famous KKK---the kabarilan, kaklase at kaibigan. 


Naguiat is the butt of criticism now after Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn denounced his former partner, Japanese billionaire pachinko king Kazuo Okada for allegedly having bribed Philippine officialdom to the tune of $110,000 to win concessions in Manila’s entertainment capital. Local media is awash with reports of Naguiat not only accepting bribes from Okada but also having enjoyed enormous perks, such as $6,000-a-night hotel accommodations in Macao from the tycoon (which, according to internet reports is the priciest in that Asian gaming capital) as well as substantial cash that went “with the villa.”
The perks said to have been enjoyed by Naguiat were initially dismissed by the Palace as "industry practice" (but why was Naguiat listed as “incognito” guest at the hotel if pricey perks are industry practice?). He himself says he’s just “collateral damage” in the war between the two rival gaming tycoons. But over the internet people are now arguing that the Palace should stop defending Naguiat as it wouldn’t look good for P-Noy’s daang-matuwid advocacy, especially in the US where congressional investigation on possible violations of the RICO Statute could be conducted over Wynn’s bribery allegations against Okada.
That’s very sound advice, P-Noy.

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Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile flew aboard a private plane to Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, last Friday, Feb. 17, to address the 20th Convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. It was a crucial session for this umbrella organization of the country's lawyers. For not only was there a 97 percent attendance of its nationwide chapters present, there were also talks that in the light of the litany of accusations leveled against CJ Corona by the prosecution as well as some charges of violation of his right to due process being tolerated by some senator-judges, some members wanted to review the unequivocal stand the IBP made at the beginning of the Senate impeachment trial a month ago. Recall that the IBP came out with a half-page ad and then a full-page ad in major dailies then, stating its unswerving support for the rule of law and the Constitution, and the Supreme Court led by Corona.
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Well, JPE apparently squelched all rumblings in the IBP with his straight talk that, toward the end, said eyewitnesses, left the Senate President, who had  turned 88 three days before, quite emotional and teary-eyed. Stressing how difficult the job of balancing “divergent and, most of the time, opposing views” of his fellow senator-judges has been, JPE said the Senate’s task at hand is “a sacred duty which we have no discretion to evade.”
While an impeachment case is political in nature, he said, “such is neither an excuse nor a license for us to ignore and abandon our solemn and higher obligation and responsibility as a body of jurors to see to it that the Bill of Rights is observed and that justice is served, to conduct the trial with impartiality and fairness, to hear the case with a clear and open mind, to weigh carefully in the scale the evidence against the respondent, and to render to him a just verdict based on no other consideration than our Constitution and laws, the facts presented to us, and our individual moral conviction.”

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JPE recalled the deliberations and voting on the SC’s TRO which had enjoined the Senate from implementing the subpoena issued to the PS Bank manager to produce and testify on documents pertaining to alleged bank accounts of CJ Corona.  He recalled the heated debate among the senator-judges earlier to grant subpoena requests from the prosecution with limitations, and “whether or not the use of the compulsory process to prove the charge in Article II would violate existing laws on the confidentiality of bank deposits in RA 1405, the Bank Secrecy Law, the Anti-Money Laundering Act and RA 6426, the Foreign Currency Deposits Act."
Enrile pointed out that the general consensus “painstakingly arrived at” was that, subject to the limitations of the Impeachment court, there was no legal impediment to the issuance of requested subpoenas pertaining to local currency deposits, but they heeded the SC’s TRO on foreign deposits. He stressed that in carrying out their duty as an Impeachment court, the senators “remain under, and not above, the Rule of Law…and that the actual exercise of that awesome power is subject to the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution.”  He emphasized that just like any other instrument, the impeachment process “can be subject to abuse and misuse, and this is not something that I will allow while I carry out my duty as Presiding Officer of the Impeachment court.” 
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Stressing that “I know that I am starting to sound like a broken record,” JPE reiterated that the Senate Impeachment court “must at all times observe the Rule of Law. It cannot transgress any of the applicable provisions of the Bill of Rights. It must be guided by the presumption of innocence before the pronouncement of guilt. It must at all times observe the principle of procedural and substantial due process…It cannot violate the laws passed by Congress of which it is an integral part. Lawmakers must not and should not also be the ‘law-breakers.” He closed with the admonition that everyone in his audience of lawyers remain vigilant that justice would triumph.
As JPE spoke, recalls an IBP official to this blogger, one could hear a pin drop. Afterwards, whatever doubts the IBP members may have entertained about due process and the supremacy of the rule of law were put to rest.
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