Joker: Truth Commission useless unless Congress arms it

Posted at 07/29/10 9:40 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Joker Arroyo said government officials accused of corruption will just play with Chief Justice Hilario Davide's Truth Commission in the courts if it's formed through an Executive Order from Malacañang.

"Anything the President does via Executive Order does not have [the] force of [the] law. It does not have subpoena power," Arroyo said.

The senator said that anyone summoned by the Truth Commission for questioning will just go to the courts and question its power to subpoena.

He said that the only thing the commission can do is investigate.

Arroyo added that the Truth Commission will be powerless just like the Presidential Commission on Good Government, which has to go through the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice (DOJ), before actually filing a case against a corrupt official.

He said that even if the commission is headed by a person like Davide, it will be useless.

"No matter who heads it, if the body has no power it's useless. It will depend upon how strong [its] powers [are]," he said.

The senator advised President Aquino to bring the Truth Commission's formation in Congress.

"Best way to do it, form a commission that is enacted by Congress," he said.

Arroyo said Congress can arm the commission with its much needed power to investigate and prosecute government officials in the past administration who have been accused of corruption.

President Aquino said in his inaugural speech that the Truth Commission will work with the DOJ.

Its main objective is to bring closure to the controversies that hounded the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Among the issues that groups seek for closure is the Arroyo administration's botched $329-million national broadband deal with China's ZTE Corporation.

Former President Arroyo, who now sits in Congress as representative of Pampanga's 2nd District, and former First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo have been cleared by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez from allegations of their supposed involvement in the anomalous deal.