Give Truth Commission a Chance - Palace

Article excerpt

Byline: FERDIE J. MAGLALANG

Instead of shunning the governments plan to form a Truth Commission, Malacanang appealed yesterday to opposition groups to give it a chance to conduct its own investigation into the accusations leveled against President Arroyo.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye made the appeal after serious legal and constitutional issues were raised against the proposed fact-finding panel which opposition groups claim could only muddle the impeachment proceedings in Congress.

"Let us not prejudge the Commission. Let us give it a chance to be organized and get on with its work," he said in a press statement.

The Arroyo administration is thinking of clothing the Truth Commission with needed powers to grant immunity and subpoena personalities to allow it to investigate credibly the Presidents alleged offenses.

The authority will not only come by virtue of an administrative order the President will issue before July 25 but also by a "reinforcing legislation" that Congress will have to pass.

Some opposition leaders and other legal luminaries had earlier argued that the formation of a Truth Commission is "unconstitutional" because it is not at all prescribed under the 1987 Constitution to investigate electoral frauds.

According to them, an electoral contest in the presidential and vice presidential election is only allowed to be heard and tried before the Supreme Court sitting as a Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

Bunye said the real intent of the formation of a fact-finding panel such as the Truth Commission is to ferret out the truth from unfounded accusations against the Presidents alleged electoral cheating and her familys involvement in jueteng payoffs.

"The Commission and the impeachment process are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the Commission can reinforce the impeachment process. The people deserve to know the whole truth," he said.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, in an interview, said he hopes that those opposing the formation of the Truth Commission would be "more reasonable" to accept the Presidents willingness to be investigated by an independent panel.

Meanwhile, lawmakers yesterday expressed confidence in President Arroyos ability to choose the best and most qualified members of the Truth Commission as they urged the various sectors to help scout for truly honest and credible individuals to form the panel to dispel suspicions of whitewash.

Lakas- CMD Reps. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City) and Lorna Silverio (Bulacan) said a collective selection process in naming the members of the Truth Commission would ensure an expeditious and fair resolution of the poll fraud charges against the President and end the crisis gripping the nation arising from the tape controversy.

Cuenco said public support and cooperation in naming the truth commissioners would ease suspicions that the truth panel would be under Malacanangs influence.

Lawyers and NGO leaders said the creation of the Truth Commission will not be a waste of time and money since it will enable the people to know the truth.

The group led by former Governor Jose P. Icaonapo Jr. of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Metro Manila, Dr. Jun Cordova of the Knights of Columbus Council 6183, law practitioners Francisco B. Sibayan and Reden S. Viaje, Crisostomo B. Vitug of Kaisahan ng Malayang Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMPIL) and former IBP Governor Pete S. Principe of Central Luzon, said it is possible that since the Truth Commission will be created by the President, its members will strive harder to perform their duties in the best possible light knowing that the people are watching them.

"There is nothing to be apprehensive about if aside from the investigation by the Truth Commission, impeachment proceedings will also be conducted in Congress," Icaonapo said. (With a report by E. …