Truth Commission to cover Aquino's SONA exposés

Posted at 07/27/10 6:26 PM

2 more former SC justices joining Truth Commission?

MANILA, Philippines - A 5-man Truth Commission will most likely handle the exposés made by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III during Monday’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Aquino has “prima facie evidence” for revealing the alleged faults of the previous administration.

She said Malacañang is now finalizing the executive order that will create the Truth Commission, including the cases that it would be focusing on.

The Truth Commission will most likely look into major cases between 2001 and 2010, she said.

Based on the draft order, the commission will be composed of 5 members, including the appointed chief, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr.

On the sidelines of the SONA yesterday, De Lima said “1 or 2 [of its members] will be former Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.”

One could be former Associate Justice Romeo Callejo, who had given a “positive feedback” on the invitation, she said.

She said the Department of Justice (DoJ) will have a big role to play in the investigations.

In a separate press conference, De Lima however explained “we need to come up with a list na tutukan ng DoJ…either in coordination with the Truth Commission or not. Hindi lahat mahahandle ng Truth Commission, depende sa gravity. Pag masyadong grave at malaki, pasok sa kanila yun.”

She said the DoJ will come up with a shortlist of its “best prosecutors” who will help the Truth Commission. At least 2 will be appointed, she said.

Truth Commission’s powers

De Lima said the Truth Commission will have the power to “compel the production of documents, the appearance of [parties] under the pain of contempt.”

She said the body will not be in conflict with the tasks of the Office of the Ombudsman.

Aquino has been criticized for failing to give a clearer view of the role of the commission.

Lawyer Theodore Te said “[what I understand] is that it will make the Ombudsman irrelevant.” He noted the Office of the Ombudsman is a constitutional body.

De Lima told ANC “about cases to be lodged…as you know, it will basically be fact-finding, gathering of evidence and facts, the evaluation of facts and the appropriate recommendations.”

She explained “the recommendations can come in various forms: more investigations, the filing of appropriate charges in court and also referring it to Ombudsman.”

As an institution, the Ombudsman will then have to process it, she said.

“If right evidence is there, they have no choice but to accept it, pursue and act on it in the Sandiganbayan,” she said.