MANILA: Opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives will challenge the legality of the Truth Commission, House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said yesterday.
Lagman said the opposition bloc is planning to file a petition questioning the constitutionality of the Truth Commission that has been tasked to investigate anomalies and irregularities allegedly committed during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Arroyo, according to her spokesperson Elena Bautista-Horn, remained unfazed by the move to create the Truth Commission and said they had already anticipated it and vowed to cooperate with the investigation.
Arroyo is scheduled to attend her first session tomorrow as representative of Pampanga’s second congressional district.
Lagman said the Truth Commission created by President Aquino needs a law in order to be effective. He described the Truth Commission as “constitutionally infirm” since it would need an action from Congress to carry out its mandate of investigating the supposed anomalies and irregularities of the previous administration.
President Aquino formed the Truth Commission, which he said would put “closure” to the allegations of graft and corruption against Arroyo and her officials during her nine-year administration.
Mr. Aquino signed Executive Order No. 1 on Friday, creating the five-man commission that will “investigate allegations of anomalies during the last nine years” of the Arroyo administration. Aquino yesterday said the Truth Commission would be fully independent, and he would leave it up to the Commission to decide whether it would summon Arroyo.
“What’s important to me is that it will be independent. I would want to ensure that there is no doubt as to the credibility of their final output. So, I cannot decide if they need to summon and what avenues they will go through, and what areas specifically to start with. We gave them the mandate to uncover the truth in all issues,” he said.
The President said he would rather allow former chief justice Hilario Davide to name the members of the commission.
He explained the Truth Commission would have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, declare possible state witnesses and call on any government or prosecutorial agency for assistance.
Lagman, however, said the petition to question the legality of Executive Order No. 1 was not meant to protect erring officials of the Arroyo administration.
“The projected court action is not to shield officials of the previous administration who can be indicted and tried before existing prosecutorial and judicial bodies,” Lagman said.
“The sole purpose of the judicial recourse (petition) is to uphold the sanctity of the Constitution on separation of powers and maintain the rule of law,” he said. Lagman said Congress must enact a law that would legalize the Truth Commission and give it powers and functions as well as funding to enable it to carry out its mandate.
He said the Truth Commission was only created by an executive order that lacked the necessary prosecutory powers like the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), created by the late President Corazon Aquino to go after the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies without necessarily going to the courts.
Although the PCGG was created by an executive order, Lagman said the agency virtually had legislative imprimatur since Mrs Aquino at that time was acting under the Freedom Constitution of the revolutionary government in 1986 when she took over from the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.