Lawyers’ Union Assails Gov’t Tactics

March 1, 2008 at 4:29 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers condemns the Executive Department’s persistent efforts to subvert the Constitution and the laws it has sworn to uphold.

The refusal of the PNP to attend the Senate investigation, the belated Ombudsman investigation and the threats of harassment suits against witness Jun Lozada are nothing more than attempts to undermine the Senate investigation into the ZTE-NBN corruption scandal. These orchestrated acts by top government officials loyal to Pres. Gloria Arroyo, however, only adds more credence to the evidence which show that those responsible for acts of corruption in the ZTE transaction is not only limited to former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos but actually involve Pres. Gloria Arroyo and her husband Atty. Mike Arroyo.

PNP Officers criminally and administratively liable

The refusal of PNP officers to attend Senate hearings ostensibly because “the PNP cannot discuss the matter publicly in order not to interfere with due process” citing the complaint for obstruction of justice filed with the Ombudsman is not only an open defiance of congressional authority but also violates the PNP officers’ oath under Sec. 40 of the Administrative Code of 1987, requiring all public officials to “obey the laws, legal orders and decrees promulgated by the duly constituted authorities”. The NUPL finds it incomprehensible how “publicly discussing the matter” before the Senate can violate due process rights considering that the Senate is an official investigation and not a symposium. Furthermore, the PNP can always ask for executive session if they feel that their statements may violate due process rights. Based on this theory, Gen. Razon and his subordinates, are henceforth, precluded from giving media interviews on the Lozada kidnapping.

The filing of a petition asking the Supreme Court to legalize the non attendance of Gen. Avelino Razon and his subordinates has no legal or constitutional basis. Gen. Razon and his subordinates cannot claim the right to self incrimination as the basis for their non attendance because the Supreme Court expressly prohibited this insidious scheme to preempt congressional investigations in Sabio vs Gordon [GR 184340, October 2006], to wit:

Anent the right against self-incrimination, it must be emphasized that this right may be invoked x x x only when the incriminating question is being asked, since they have no way of knowing in advance the nature or effect of the questions to be asked of them.” That this right may possibly be violated or abused is no ground for denying respondent Senate Committees their power of inquiry.

Furthermore, Sec. 19 of the Senate rules expressly prohibit ‘preemptive’ claim to self-incrimination:

Sec. 19. Privilege Against Self-Incrimination

A witness can invoke his right against self-incrimination only when a question tends to elicit an answer that will incriminate him is propounded to him. x x x No person can refuse to testify or be placed under oath or affirmation or answer questions before an incriminatory question is asked. His invocation of such right does not by itself excuse him from his duty to give testimony.

In such a case, the Committee, by a majority vote of the members present there being a quorum, shall determine whether the right has been properly invoked. If the Committee decides otherwise, it shall resume its investigation and the question or questions previously refused to be answered shall be repeated to the witness. If the latter continues to refuse to answer the question, the Committee may punish him for contempt for contumacious conduct.

This blatant disregard of the Senate’s authority to conduct investigation is another attempt to preempt the investigation and subvert the search for the truth behind the ZTE scandal. This makes all the respondents subject to criminal and administrative charges that may be filed after Pres. Gloria Arroyo ceases to be President on or before 2010. Absent a TRO from the Supreme Court, Gen. Razon has no recourse but to attend the Senate hearing on February 26.

DOJ Fact Finding

The NUPL also condemns Pres. Arroyo’s continuing misuse of the Department of Justice through her Justice Secretary. The threats publicly aired by Sec. Raul Gonzalez of DOJ plans to investigate ZTE witness Jun Lozada’s finances and file criminal cases against his brothers and sisters for perjury not only smacks of harassment but also a not so veiled attempt to silence Mr. Lozada.

The arrogance implied by Sec. Gonzalez’ threats against a lowly public official in Mr. Lozada is matched by his cowardice to investigate the involvement of FG Mike Arroyo and Chairman Abalos in the ZTE deal and other anomalies. After Sec. Neri charged, under oath in an official congressional investigation, Chairman Abalos of bribery, the voluble Justice Secretary did not found the charges worth investigating. The DOJ cannot make investigations which would pre judge the exercise of its official function of conducting preliminary investigation if criminal complaints are filed against any party involved in the ZTE corruption scandal. Furthermore, the Justice Secretary has constantly expressed his loyalty and fealty to Pres. Arroyo and his biased views against Mr. Lozada and those that seek to reveal the truth behind the corruption charges against Pres. Arroyo disqualifying his department from conducting investigation.

Ombdusman Investigation a diversionary circus

The Ombudsman investigation is another such attempt to confuse the people and divert the attention from the Senate investigation. The Ombudsman is required under Sec. 15 (1) of RA 6670 to:

1) Investigate and prosecute on its own or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient. It has primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan x x x

The ZTE contract was cancelled or suspended by Pres. Gloria Arroyo because of the irregularities—a clear admission that corruption may have taken place. Under the law, the Ombudsman should have acted as early as last year, on its own, because the scrapped contract ‘appear’ illegal or at the very least, improper.

The Ombudsman has constantly refused to investigate such a blatant display of corruption and overpricing despite the admission by Pres. Arroyo of the irregularities involved. The Ombudsman has in fact, disregarded the statement of a Cabinet member, Sec. Romulo Neri, that he was bribed by Chairman Abalos, a clear sign of the biased exercise by Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierez of her functions as a supposed independent Ombudsman. Guttierez can be found guilty in an impeachment proceeding if only for this inefficiency. The attempt of the Ombudsman, which has not seriously acted on the Fertilizer Scam case and Jocjoc Bolante for years, to intervene only now when the ZTE issue is generating interest and after the tenth complaint was filed, shows its utter lack of respect to its own mandate and task under the law and the Constitution.

NUPL demands of Pres. Arroyo to desist from using her office and those of her subordinates in preempting serious investigations on the ZTE deal precisely because she and her family are the ones being charged with corruption in the said issue. This is not only required by the Anti graft and corrupt Practices Act but by the principle of delicadeza, the unwritten law governing ethical actions of public officials. Pres. Arroyo is not only accountable for her acts but is also accountable for all the violation of the Constitution and the laws committed by her subordinates to illegally protect her from congressional investigations.

Reference Person: Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares-Secretary General


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