The Travails of an Unpopular President

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I often read in several newspaper columns how they put side by side the legacy of Arroyo with those of history’s most unpopular tyrants, making it appear that Arroyo, beyond reasonable doubt, stands fit in the same pedestal where Herod or Marcos now stands with great infamy. Adding insult to injury, it seems that Arroyo’s case differs largely from those whom she is compared with: while they enjoy some speck of popularity, Arroyo on the other hand never enjoyed it longer than she would want, even when she assumed office after Estrada’s fall, many saw it as a constitutional farce and a mockery of the system we have. All these bickering about her flight abroad to allegedly escape trial had been the talk of the nation, but it couldn’t have precipitated to the current issue without the infamous the body that started it all: the DoJ-COMELEC Joint Panel Investigation that is tasked to probe on probable cases of election-related violations and the offenses that may have (or for some, already had been) been committed by several officials, notable of course by Arroyo. Following the supposed “hasty” filing of a criminal case against Arroyo in the Pasay City Regional Trial Court by COMELEC based on the finding of the said body, the Arroyo camp (through former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo) and former COMELEC Commissioner Benjamin Abalos filed separate petitions challenging the constitutionality of the joint panel which, if found to be violative of the constitution, would nullify all the findings of the panel and ultimately lift the HLO and arrest warrant against Arroyo which apparently would allow her to leave the country having the last laugh. On November 29, the Supreme Court heard the Oral Arguments, starting off with the Abalos’s counsel, but over-all, the court highlighted the following issues: (1) whether or not the creation of the panel and the procedures adopted by it is constitutional, (2) is there a need to publish the Rules of Procedure adopted by the investigating committee/panel, and (3) is there violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the constitution. The first impression of this session is clear: is the joint panel reminiscent of the early Spanish Inquisition created specifically to hunt non-believers and heretics without the slightest observance of a fair trial. To emulate the ever-eager columnists, let me cite some historical similarities to Arroyo’s case. In Romania, following a successful overthrowing of the government of Nicolae Ceausescu, the military immediately dispatched Nicolae and his wife and subjected them to a trial before a military tribunal. The court looked less than a respectable one, and many historians believed it was just a show trial. What happened next tells the horrors a tyrant might get from his or her betrayed country. In just one day, Nicolae and his wife were found guilty of several crimes and atrocities, sentencing them to suffer death. Right after the trial, the spouses were shot to death by a firing squad. This event in Romanian history marked the advent for revolution, but it made an unprecedented leap towards bending the rules through disregard of even the most humane of our natural laws. Now, we have our own case which we might fear not to resort to such atrocious persecution which was a wide-spread act in several European countries, or recently, in the most recent Arab Spring. How does Arroyo’s case find the same standing? Some argue that the panel hastily did an overtake ahead of the Supreme Court after it re-affirmed the issuance of a TRO by filing a criminal case against Arroyo in a trial court which, by operation of law, would bar Arroyo from leaving despite the TRO. Although the TRO speaks of her right to travel, the criminal charge bars her from leaving as a matter of police power to withhold flight of potential criminals. But the ultimate question is: is the panel duly constituted in the first place? If not, would its findings become fruits of poisonous tree? Was it created purposely to prosecute Arroyo and others for the alleged vote rigging in the 2004 and the 2007 elections? One argument raised by the petitioner is that due process must be observed even in cases of preliminary investigation, citing the cases of PCGG vs. COMELEC and Allado vs. Diokno. The question of independence of COMELEC and the alleged violation of such independence by attaching itself to a political branch of government had been brought to the fore. And all other matters of procedure and proper jurisdiction had been duly raised. There’s the question that if the DoJ-COMELEC sought to punish the election cheaters, it should cover cases even before Arroyo, otherwise it violates equal protection. To that point, the stand is clear: that Arroyo might have been unduly subjected to an investigation as if she is the only beast that must be put down. The line of interpellation seeks to deduce the substantial issue of whether to whom the jurisdiction should investigating election offenses fall. In Republic Act 9369, the COMELEC has concurrent (but not exclusive) jurisdiction over all cases of election-related offenses. In Batas Pambansa Blg. 811, the DoJ has the same concurrent jurisdiction. The law speaks clearly that DoJ and COMELEC have concurrent jurisdictions to investigate election-related offenses, meaning, they can exercise investigatory function over the same subject matter. But the question is: can they go hand in hand in finding probable cause of violation by Arroyo and by other people she is in cahoots with? Does the mere joint function of an independent body and a political agency of government already subjects the former to questions of doubt and uncertainty? The impression is quite real than imagined: that Arroyo is under a show-trial that ultimately will throw her to jail no matter how the law speaks otherwise. But of course, whether the Supreme Court rules against the creation of the panel, the precipitation of all these boils down to the political reality of our country: that the vigilante will not stop in catching the crooks. Even if the so-called “Arroyo justices” will hand down their verdict to save their master, the Aquino administration will find a way to throw her in jail, like how they found time to delay Arroyo’s plight despite clear legal provisions, which would only take bold courage and risk “defiance” to question.

Sidelining Bush’s efforts – Why Washington should credit the previous administration

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The Congressional authorization granted to Pres. George. W. Bush during the infamous War on Terror waged against Al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks under its leader Osama bin Laden, has resulted to serious human rights and legal issues that attacked and tarnished Bush’s foreign policy efforts. The mistake of Iraq war as most would claim put Bush in extreme criticism over his competence the over-all legitimacy of the war on terror. Right after 9/11, Bush has focused most of its military attention to terrorist-ridden countries, as paranoia and the still lingering raw hatred against 9/11 attackers overwhelmed most of the public’s views. The Authorization of the Use of Military Force or AUMF may still be as controversial as torture issues that contributed to several war crime accusations against Bush and his henchmen, among them the former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This presidential power has brought down both innocent and guilty individuals. Among the infamous court cases, Hamdi vs Rumsfeld and Hamdan vs Rumsfeld and Boumediene vs Bush, questioned the legal justification of Bush’s anti-terror efforts. But should his efforts be judged solely on the mishaps rather than the contributing success of the present anti-terror and counter-insurgency policies of the United States?
Bin Laden’s death has catapulted Pres. Obama into certain pedestal that bred the public’s confidence over their new Commander-in-Chief which somehow hasn’t been present since Bush stepped down from office. The haunting fact however is that the success of the military siege that ultimately brought down the most wanted terrorist in the world has eclipsed Bush in the development of foreign policy approaches dealing with terrorist groups in several countries including Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although one might see this as a victory for America, Republicans rather than the Democrats have the right to brag about Bin Laden’s death. Washington’s failure to credit the Bush administration puts a double standard in dealing with the matter. The surge of criticisms against Bush has created an early judgement to the president himself that has dragged down unseen and unrealized successes behind. Bush’s policies have resulted to serious positive developments against terrorism for the past decade. However, media frenzy and court battles have strayed away the public from weighing down the mistakes and the good things that had happened under Bush. Double-standards are evident however in Obama’s Washington. Obama’s presidential campaign has changed the hopes of the public regarding security issues. Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo Bay has resulted to almost non-extant criticisms, even to the point where Obama failed to do so. Even the still present practice of torture which the Obama administration has avoided to address hasn’t placed the government in the same hot seat as Bush before. Even worse, some blame the present mishaps to Bush himself. Now that vengeance has been served against the root of American anger against terrorists right after 9/11, political value gas been obviously considered favouring Obama’s campaign, and crediting Bush over Bin Laden’s death may lose such political and electoral value for Obama. And besides, Bin Laden’s death does not end US’s efforts in fighting terrorism, more so being the final factor for judging Obama’s foreign policy efforts and duty as Commander-in-Chief. But putting Bush into the success should be an utterly fair move for Washington to do. It is irksome to hear and watch Liberal defenders such as the pretentiously chirpy comedienne Wanda Sykes (who keeps on criticising Bush but seem to have a brain the size of walnut) question Bush and judge his presidency. But on the matter of counter-terrorism, Bush has succeeded in several areas that no president has done before. But Washington is just being into convention that critically questioned administrations are not good for politicking.


(Cartoon Courtesy of: Political Graffiti (http://politicalgraffiti.wordpress.com/)