Noynoy urged to issue EO on 'truth commission'

Posted at 06/30/10 3:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines - A human rights lawyer on Wednesday urged President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to issue an executive order that would make the creation of the "truth commission" official.

"Perhaps, as a technical point, it would be best that the President comes up with a clear mandate, clear jurisdiction, clear operating rules... He may want to come up with the first executive order, [creating] the presidential truth commission," lawyer Theodore Te told ANC in an interview.

Te said that without a clear mandate from the President himself, the truth commission that will be headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. might "run into some legal problems."

"People might question the power, the extent of authority, the mandate and the resources," he said, adding that Aquino should also clearly define where and how the “truth commission” would fit into the country's justice system.

He said Aquino should also clearly define the other agencies that would be part of the commission.

He suggested that Aquino involve representatives not only from the Department of Justice, but also the Office of the Ombudsman, other offices in the judiciary, and the committees in the House of Representative and the Senate that handled investigations regarding alleged corrupt activities of the Arroyo administration.

"Largely, it appears that the truth commission is one person. Davide is given blanket authority to do what he thinks would be best," Te said.

Aquino has said that Davide, working with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, will conduct deeper investigations into the alleged crimes committed by outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her administration.

In his inaugural speech, Aquino said Davide is tasked to bring closure to issues that hounded the outgoing administration.

He also gave De Lima her marching orders to "begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all."

Human rights

As a rights lawyer, Te said he has yet to hear from Aquino about his plans on how to put closure to allegations of human rights violations committed by the Arroyo administration.

He said Mrs. Arroyo's rights record is smeared by the numerous cases of media killings, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Te added that Mrs. Arroyo's record is dismal primarily because many institutions during her watch "were rendered less credible."

"Maybe because of appointments made of people heading those institutions. People basically lost trust in those institutions," he said.

Judicial reform

Te also said Aquino's promise to reform the country's justice system could encounter rough sailing.

He said this is due to Aquino's continued refusal to recognize Mrs. Arroyo's appointment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

"The problem with judicial change is that the judiciary is headed by the Chief Justice, and the Supreme Court has an exclusive power. Because of the separation of powers, he (Aquino) cannot interfere," he said. "There has to be closer coordination between the executive and the judiciary and the houses of Congress if they want better judicial reform."

Te said that if Aquino is really sincere in his promise to reform the country's justice system, he should start "accepting unacceptable [appointments] to him during the campaign."

"Even before he [Corona] got proclaimed, he already made known his distaste of the appointment... The ruling of the SC has been made final. The power to appoint is a settled question. He [Corona] is the chief justice of the Philippines," the lawyer said.