We have the word of Raul Gonzalez–for whatever that’s worth– that the five party- list representatives who have been in the “protective custody” of the House for over two months may leave the premises without being arrested. But Gonzalez says that’s only for the moment, and that the Department of (in)Justice may have them arrested anyway once he decides to take “legal action” against them.

Gonzalez and the regime he serves have a problem. They’re eager to kill the spirit and practice of the party-list system that allows marginalized sectors representation in the elite-controlled House of Representatives, and to restore total dynastic dominance in the House. But a Makati court has refused to include the five–Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casino and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna; Liza Maza of Gabriela; and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis–in an amended rebellion charge originally filed against Congressman Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis and Army first lieutenant Lawrence San Juan.

Gonzalez has crashed head on into the very law he’s fond of citing whenever it suits him and the regime. That means they’ll have to find some other way to get the five and similar-minded congressmen and women out of Congress–and that’s where Gonzalez’s promise of future “legal action” would come in.

Gonzalez can thus be expected to look through his law books and whatever other material he can find in the coming days, weeks or months for something–anything–that can achieve the purpose of keeping the House and the elite interests it protects safe from Ocampo et.al.

If this sounds as if he and the regime are using the law for their purposes and whenever it’s convenient, it’s because they are. Gonzalez’s statements when he announced the decision not to arrest the five are themselves proof enough of the whimsy with which he and his regime cohorts regard the law.

Gonzalez’s concern was thus the media and not the law. The regime doesn’t want to “play a role” in a “script” that would “dramatize their situation,” which would in turn be picked up by the media, said Gonzalez. It isn’t because the law is with the five. It’s because, if the five were arrested once they left the House, the media would “lap it up,” thus the decision not to arrest them because that way, “after two days the story will be dead.” Once the story’s dead, implied Gonzalez, the DOJ can devise some other charge and arrest them anyway.

Gonzalez himself was playing up to the media, swaggering for all he’s worth and claiming that “the law is on [his] side” when it obviously isn’t. But beneath the comic bluster seethes not only the arrogance of power but also a single-minded focus on achieving piecemeal an authoritarian regime premised on an acquiescent press and a silenced opposition.

It is now evident that Proclamation 1017 was the midwife that would have given birth to that regime. Press and civil society vigilance as well as a divided police and military helped prevent the genesis of a monster similar to the Marcos terror regime last February. But its vile would-be parents have not given up. Instead they have spared no effort—despite press and civil society criticism, despite police and military restiveness, and despite the Supreme Court, the Constitution and the very laws they’re supposed to implement—in their campaign to end all meaningful protest and opposition so they usurp all power.

The regime’s and its officials’ cavalier attitude towards the law is among the many indications that in their mind Proclamation 1017 gave them powers beyond whatever control the Supreme Court and even the Constitution may devise.

Exhibit A is the reference in Proclamation 1017 to “decrees” the putative president of the Philippines was apparently thinking of issuing. In Exhibit B are the continuing attempts to intimidate the press and citizens in general via gross violations of the Bill of Rights. And Exhibit C are the arrogant statements from Gonzalez, the Palace and the regime’s police and military officers which uniformly suggest that they can take the law or leave it—it’s up to them whether to observe the Supreme Court ruling on EO 464, and the Calibrated Pre-emptive Response, no-permit- no-rally, and arrest without warrants policies.

Thus did the Senate committee on ways and means end up with the subalterns of three department secretaries they had asked to testify, not on a political issue, but in behalf of legislation on tax, smuggling and other financial matters. Thus have police spokesmen announced that CPR would continue to be in force, and thus has Gonzalez and company continued to justify arrests without warrants as well as to insist, despite the Makati court decision, that Ocampo, Maza, Mariano, Casino and Virador are involved in the “continuing crime” of rebellion.

This insistence on their interpretation of the laws, their powers, and their prerogatives is occurring in the context of Supreme Court and other courts’ decisions denying them and Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo those very powers and prerogatives.

The conclusion is inevitable. It isn’t the “Batasan Five” who’re following a script, it’s the regime that’s persecuting them and everyone else who dare protest its policies, question its legitimacy, or even insist on their rights. The regime and its officials apparently think themselves above the law, because a coup did take place last February. But it wasn’t the coup Proclamation 1017 was supposedly pre-empting. Proclamation 1017 was the coup.

(Business Mirror)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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  1. There was also another Gonzalez–Norberto Gonzalez–who was detained for well over a month by the Senate last year. I understand this Arroyo fall guy was also arrested “warrantless” after having been publicly humiliated. He was deprived of his liberty without due process of law, inspite of the provision that “the rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries [in aid of legislation] shall be respected,” among which, of course, is the right against compulsory self-incrimination–“a protection of the innocent though a shelter for the guilty.”

    Should advocy of a cause be selective? or Is the Senate also “above the law”?

  2. Mr. Arong, what the senators did was in accordance with the Constitution and the Senate rules.

    Article VI, Section 21 of the constitution says: “The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure. The rights of persons appearing in, or affected by, such inquiries shall be respected.”

    And here’s Section 18 of the Senate’s Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation:

    The Committee, by a vote of a majority of all its members, may punish for contempt any witness before it who disobeys any order of the Committee or refuses to be sworn or to testify or to answer a proper question by the Committee or any of its members, or testifying, testifies falsely or evasively. A contempt of the Committee shall be deemed a contempt of the Senate. Such witness may be ordered by the Committee to be detained in such place as it may designate under the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms until he agrees to produce the required documents, or to be sworn or to testify, or otherwise purge himself of that contempt.

  3. So, the “duly published rules of procedure” of the Senate (particularly Section 18) are to be regarded as higher than, or “above the law” concerning, the “rights of persons” (as enumerated in the Bill of Rights) which the Constitution under the same Section 21, Article VI, commands to be “respected.”

    Thus, “respect” for constitutionally guaranteed “rights of persons” ends whenever any provision of the Senate Rules of Procedure begins.

    I still think though that the authority of the Senate to “punish for contempt” ought to be decided by an impartial tribunal competent to determine the question of guilt–certainly NOT by the Senate, the accusers, delegated the power only to make law.

    “Punishment” is too serious a matter to be entrusted to any group other than the judiciary.

    In WATKINS v. UNITED STATES, 354 U.S. 178 (1957): “Since World War II, the Congress has practically abandoned its original practice of utilizing the coercive sanction of contempt proceedings at the bar of the House. The sanction there imposed is imprisonment by the House until the recalcitrant witness agrees to testify or disclose the matters sought, provided that the incarceration does [354 U.S. 178, 207] not extend beyond adjournment. The Congress has instead invoked the aid of the federal judicial system in protecting itself against contumacious conduct. It has become customary to refer these matters to the United States Attorneys for prosecution under criminal law…”

    “In fulfillment of their obligation under this statute, the courts must accord to the defendants every right which is guaranteed to defendants in all other criminal cases …”

    GROPPI v. LESLIE, 404 U.S. 496 (1972), reiterates the WATKINS view:

    “Legislatures are not constituted to conduct full-scale trials or quasi-judicial proceedings and we should not demand that they do so although they possess inherebt power to protect their own processes and existence by way of contempt proceedings. The Congress of the United States, for example, no longer undertakes to exercise its contempt powers in all cases but elects to delegate that function to federal courts (52 Stat 942, 2 U.S.C. Secs 192-194).”

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