Allies of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Friday challenged before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Executive Order (EO) No. 1 creating the “Truth Commission” to investigate corruption scandals that hounded the previous administration.
House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman led three other senior lawmakers in filing the petition against EO 1, which they claimed as unconstitutional.
In a 54-page petition, Lagman – together with Reps. Rodolfo Albano Jr. of Isabela, Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao, and Orlando Fua Jr. of Siquijor – called the Truth Commission an “exercise in futility” for duplicating the quasi-judicial powers of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice (DoJ).
They also said the commission, to be headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., is an “enterprise and discriminatory pursuit of “truth and justice” solely against officials and personnel of the previous administration.
The petitioners also asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin the Office of the President from enforcing EO 1.
Named respondents in the petition are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
This is the second time in two days that an executive order of President Aquino was challenged before the High Court. The validity of EO 2 recalling the appointments of so-called “midnight appointees” was also questioned before the SC.
Lagman and fellow petitioners cited seven grounds in questioning the constitutionality of EO 1. These are:
1.EO 1 violates the separation of powers as it arrogates the legislative authority of Congress to create a public office and appropriate funds for its operation;
2.The provision of Book III, Chapter 10, Section 31 of the Administrative Code of 1987 cannot legitimize EO 1 because the delegated authority of the President to structurally reorganize the Office of the President to achieve economy, simplicity, and efficiency does not include the power to create an entirely new public office which was hitherto inexistent like the Truth Commission;
3.EO 1 illegally amended the Charter and pertinent statutes when it vested the Truth Commission with quasi-judicial powers duplicating, if not superseding, those of the Office of the Ombudsman created under the 1987 Constitution and the Department of Justice created under the Administrative Code of 1987;
4.The executive order violated the equal protection clause as it selectively targets for investigation and prosecution officials and personnel of the Arroyo administration as if corruption is their peculiar species even as it excludes those of the other administrations, past and present, who may be indictable;
5.The creation of the Truth Commission violates the consistent and general international practice of four decades in which governments constitute truth commissions to exclusively investigate human rights violations, which worldwide customary practice forms part of the generally accepted principles of international law which the Philippines is mandated to adhere to pursuant to the Declaration of Principles enshrined in the Constitution;
6.The creation of the new commission is an exercise in futility, an adventure in partisan hostility, a launching pad for trial or conviction by publicity, and a mere populist propaganda to mistakenly impress the people that widespread poverty will altogether vanish if corruption is eliminated without even addressing the other major causes of poverty;
7.The mere fact that previous commissions were not constitutionally challenged is of no moment because neither laches nor estoppel can bar an eventual question on the constitutionally and validity of an executive issuance or even a statute.
Edmer Panesa, Manila Bulletin