Arroyo investigations

The 800-Pound Gorilla

What are the blind-spots that the administration is ignoring?

image from be-the-bear.blogspot.com

Those who chide us for telling the President not to lose sight of the economy in the hunt for Mrs Arroyo might remember the experiment conducted by Daniel Simon and Christopher Chabris.

In this famous study looking into visual perception and selective attention, participants were told to view a short video clip depicting two groups passing balls around, one group wearing black shirts and the other wearing white. They were told to count the number of times a ball was passed between those in white. Here is the video for those unfamiliar with it.

At the end, most participants were able to provide the correct number of passes made between white shirted people. But then, when asked if they had noticed the gorilla in the room, about half said they did not. As it turns out, the act of focusing too much attention on the ball prevented many from even noticing something as glaringly out of place as a person in a gorilla suit walking right into the middle of the set and thumping his chest, even when it was staring them in the face!

To those supportive of the president’s actions against his predecessor, Mrs Gloria Arroyo, she represents the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. Any other concern such as the economy even during a deteriorating global economic crisis is a mere distraction to the task of bringing her to justice. They would rather have the president focus his energy and attention on the task of ending her ‘monkey business’ than worry about sustaining the growth of the Philippines and along with that the job security of present and future workers.

Of course in an ideal world, the president and his cabinet would be able to do more than one thing at a time, but that is not what the evidence suggests. Witness the latest downgrade by the ADB of the Philippines’ growth prospects. It demonstrates how the government has not kept its ‘eye on the ball’, so to speak by failing to prime the economy with public capital expenditures.

Ok, some would say. So, perhaps aside from keeping track of the ball, the president could also monitor the gorilla, but then as this next study shows, something else could be happening. When respondents were told about the gorilla after viewing the first clip, they were then asked to view a second one, which is shown below.

This time around, everyone noticed the movement of the gorilla, since they had by this time been primed for it. However, not everyone noticed the color of the curtain changing or that one of the players in a black shirt exited the frame. This again should be of concern to those who feel confident of the government’s cognitive abilities.

Even if say next year, P-Noy’s team were to start putting a greater emphasis on ensuring that his government did its job to prop up demand in the economy by spending its budget for public construction (a task it performed miserably this year), while prosecuting the Arroyos, what other crisis could catch it off guard? A power crisis for instance is already looming on the horizon. Presumably a temporary downturn will reduce demand for power, but decisions with regard to its future supply have to be taken years in advance. Remember how the Cory government failed to address this issue?

It was former president Fidel Ramos who likened the presidency to a juggling act which is performed by someone on a unicycle on a high tension wire several hundred feet off the ground wearing a blind-fold with one hand tied behind the back and no safety net. A simple distraction or loss of concentration could spell disaster. It appears that the president is already too emotionally involved not only with Mrs Arroyo’s case but with delegitimizing the Chief Justice as well. The rage he expressed recently could blind him and his administration from pursuing important reforms.

Already several balls seemed to have fallen to the ground (or slipped off the radar) such as the RH bill and revising the EPIRA law (only 3.25 of the 33 priority measures have been passed so far, which at that rate will take ten years for all of them to succeed), such as appointing competent ambassadors (yes, I am referring to that confirmation hearing of Domingo Lee which was lampooned here), and the like.

Personally, my take on this is that the ball represents the president’s poll numbers. His handlers are so keen on tracking them and on focusing on what would drive them up or down (prosecuting the Arroyos for instance and railing against the Chief Justice) that they have perhaps lost sight of their own short-comings and failings which they dare not speak to the president about lest he get upset with them for ‘distracting’ him.

Witness the justice department’s conduct in investigating the former president, now congresswoman Arroyo which did not square with the norms and institutions of the judicial system making it appear more like a witch hunt than a proper legal proceeding. The president’s transference of blame to the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court does not excuse the shameless way he went about seeking to detain Mrs Arroyo which was reminiscent of her own extra-constitutional and extra-legal antics. This dangerous precedent of the executive undermining the judiciary is something more hazardous to the survival of our fragile democracy than just this case alone can pose.

But the president seems dead-set on playing the biggest trump card up his sleeve, his massive popularity, in order to impose his will on the high court. These ‘animal spirits’ once unleashed could lead to disastrous consequences. The country now sits on the precipice of further decay. Waiting for just a slight nudge from the president which could plunge it into a downward spiral of political instability and risk uncertainty in the coming years which will dissipate any investor confidence that had been returning.

Many will balk at this characterization of the situation saying that what is going on is nothing out of the ordinary for the Philippines. But that is exactly my point–the country was well-poised to become a more mature, more stable democracy. Apparently not now by the looks of it. Was it too much to ask for the elite to rise above their familial squabbling? They seem so focused on who gets the ball and how it changes hands, keeping track and keeping score of each player that they ignore the wider context and how their actions affect the country’s progress. Ignoring in the process, the 800 lb gorilla in the room.

Like a Thief in the Night

image of Michaelangelo's Last Judgement from freepublic.com

That is not how the government acted in seeking to put Mrs Gloria Arroyo behind bars. Rather than keep the former president guessing as to the date when formal charges against her would be laid, President Aquino announced back in September what the timetable for it would be. Here is how he phrased it,

We will start filing the cases before the end of this year and with a little cooperation from the judiciary, maybe we can put some of these people in jail next year.

This signalled to Mrs Arroyo that she had to make travel plans as soon as possible, which then forced Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to take it upon herself to place the congresswoman under a departure watch list to keep her in the country even before preliminary investigations were concluded. This according to one justice meant that De Lima was now “more powerful than the court which can only do the same “after the filing of the information and the issuance of an arrest warrant“.

With a little cooperation from the judiciary”: those words of P-Noy now seem ominously prescient of events as they unfolded because straight after thwarting an attempt by the former president to leave by disregarding an injunction from the high court on the watch list order, the government then turned to a joint panel between the Comelec and the DOJ set up to look into electoral fraud to file a case before a regional trial court against Mrs Arroyo. This timeline shows that within the space of a few hours upon receiving their case files which numbered several thick ring binders, a judge issued an arrest warrant.

Had this judge not been so “cooperative”, Mrs Arroyo might have successfully fled the scene since the Supreme Court had by then thrown out the government’s appeal to have its injunction on their watch list order lifted. And so despite the fact that it had foolishly forewarned the former president of its intended moves, the government somehow managed to keep her in the country long enough for an arrest warrant to be served.

In the process of doing so, however, the government may have committed a few grave mistakes. These might come back to haunt its case. Certainly if it is found that it acted inappropriately, the president needs to own up to it because it was he who set the wheels in motion that eventually landed the government in a whole heap of trouble. Particularly with respect to his campaign promise to uphold the rule of law, P-Noy will be ultimately responsible if it is determined that his government usurped judicial powers or acted in contempt of court.

At the moment, the president is assailing the Supreme Court for the speed in which it issued its injunction on the government’s watch list order as he spoke before his “home court” the Makati Business Club, saying

(O)ur lawyers all know that it takes the Supreme Court 10 days, normally, to attend to motions, and it decides to issue a TRO for Mrs. Arroyo in three, who can avoid wondering what she did to merit such speedy relief?

And yet the president doesn’t see the irony of his position because the government was quite happy to get a lower court judge to issue an arrest warrant on his adversary in a matter of hours, which was a far more difficult decision to make. Certainly, when it comes to fostering the rule of law, what this government has in mind is something quite different from the standard.

Like a thief in the night–that is how the Hacienda Luisita decision was handed down by the high court in the midst of all this. Oral arguments had been heard and the judgement of the court had been pending. No one knew the day or time when it would materialize. Suddenly either by coincidence or by design the justices rendered a unanimous vote in favour of the farm worker beneficiaries to have the Aquino-Cojuangco estate title transferred directly to them.

Having justified its bold and decisive actions against the court’s injunctions because of the ensuing confusion surrounding it, the government through its spokesman immediately informed the public that it would respect this particular decision as public support had been mounting in favour of it. The only caveat was for the determination of ‘just compensation’ for the president’s relatives and other issues that the court still has to settle.

The initial action by the Arroyo government to revoke the stock distribution option taken by the Cojuangcos in complying with the agrarian reform law was suspect according to US officials based on confidential diplomatic cables as a form of retaliation by Mrs Arroyo on the matriarch of the Cojuangco clan for supporting calls for her ouster back in 2005. What the Supreme Court ruling now does is open up the possibility for a counter-retaliatory move on the part of Mr Aquino against the Macapagal-Arroyo clans who also own sugar plantations.

This tantalizing opportunity could reverse the destructive pattern of competition by ruling elite factions to accumulate wealth through landholdings using the weak system of property rights in the country in order to consolidate power. Now in a bid to weaken each other, these same ruling elites might now work to dismantle each other’s landholdings. Given that one faction controls the executive and another holds the sympathies of the judiciary, this feud might actually produce something positive for the country.

Like a thief in the night—that is not how events overtook this government on the economic front. For one, the debt crisis in Europe was unravelling like a train wreck in slow motion for several years now. The seeds of this crisis were actually sown during the last one when governments pumped liquidity into their banking systems and engaged in stimulatory fiscal spending. It was only a matter of time before bond holders began to raise the cost of public debt.

The government had ample time to prepare the nation for this crisis, to bullet proof it by sustaining demand through public construction and investment. The early warning signs that its fiscal consolidation was going too far and actually dampening growth in demand were quite evident during the end of last year. The government had ample opportunity to correct its course and make the necessary adjustments. It may turn out in the end that a transition to a new government may have caused unnecessary disruptions to patron-client networks in the bureaucracy. Reconfiguring these networks took too much time.

Finance officials might have taken this as a welcome blessing as the slow spend rate allowed them to limit the fiscal deficit while sticking to the president’s no new taxes pledge. Meanwhile,with the fiscal space it had from fiscal consolidation, it cut tariffs on certain industries. It balanced this decision by removing power subsidies to exporters in special economic zones. These could threaten the growth of some industries and lead to the closure of others at a time when global demand for our exports is already weakening or restructuring as some economists have noted.

The biblical phrase “like a thief in the night” comes from the parable of the ten virgins found in the canonical gospels of the New Testament. It is also known as the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins. The five virgins who were prepared for the bride-groom came to his wedding feast, while the other five who weren’t were excluded. It has an eschatological message: to be prepared for the day of judgement. The final reckoning.

With the second coming of the Aquino dynasty, will the country be prepared to pass the test? Or will it simply slip into oblivion? The day of judgement is nearly at hand!

Whither the Philippines in 2020?

As America “pivots” towards Asia where the future economic centre of gravity of the world will be, how big or small a role will the Philippines play in this the Pacific Century?

Source of image: taiwandocuments.org

Jim O’Neill the man from Goldman Sachs responsible for the acronym BRICs (which stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China) in a forthcoming book feels all the more convinced as ever of the accuracy of his predictions ten years ago when he first coined it to describe the growth potential of emerging markets. His sense of vindication for what he now characterises as his “conservative” estimates comes from the fact that in his words,

The world economy has doubled in size since 2001, and a third of that growth has come from the BRICs. Their combined GDP increase was more than twice that of the United States and it was equivalent to the creation of another new Japan plus one Germany, or five United Kingdoms, in the space of a single decade.

At this rate, China will be on track to surpass the United States as the world’s biggest economy by 2027, according to O’Neill, beating the earlier estimate of 2035. Predicting when this will happen has become an interesting past-time of analysts of late, which is why The Economist whose own projections for a 2019 year of reckoning made available the following interactive chart where you can play around with the assumptions and do-it-yourself  by entering them in the assigned fields (see below).

As Secretary Clinton has put it

The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. Stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans — the Pacific and the Indian — that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy. It boasts almost half the world’s population. It includes many of the key engines of the global economy, as well as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. It is home to several of our key allies and important emerging powers like China, India, and Indonesia.

In his address to the Australian parliament, President Obama welcomed the rise of a peaceful China stating that

Together, I believe we can address shared challenges, such as (nuclear) proliferation and maritime security, including cooperation in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, the United States will continue our effort to build a cooperative relationship with China.
…We will do this, even as we continue to speak candidly to Beijing about the importance of upholding international norms and respecting the universal human rights of the Chinese people.
A secure and peaceful Asia is the foundation for the second area in which America is leading again – and that’s advancing our shared prosperity.

A constant theme in that speech which effectively marked the “pivot point” to the East was America’s adherence to the rule of law to govern international relations in security and economic terms, as well as its championing of open democracies and free markets in the region. In both cases, Obama was at his professorial best when he promoted the concept of rules based trading in commerce and politics.

His speech writers could be said to channel F.A. Hayek the founder of contemporary libertarianism who said that, “Only the existence of common rules makes the peaceful existence of individuals in society possible.

This is consistent with America’s constitutional belief in universal principles. Prof Obama was also acting like Dr King, in that he was delivering a sermon. He may have seemed in Australia to be “preaching to the choir” but his real intended audience was not in Canberra, but Beijing. In Bali, he got to exchange a few constructive words with his Chinese counterpart. Much to the Philippine delegation’s dismay, the US defence posture in the region is not meant to intimidate the rising power of China into submission over the South China Sea issue.

Back home, President Aquino had another axe of sorts to grind with the placing of his predecessor Gloria Arroyo under hospital detention following her indictment for election fraud. This followed a week of controversy involving her attempted departure from the country to seek medical treatment following a Supreme Court decision to temporarily lift the Department of Justice’s hold departure order on her, a decision that was not accepted by the said department.

All of this puts into context, the question of where will the Philippines be in 2020? Will the Philippines be a prosperous democratic country governed by the rule of law? Or will it still be struggling to achieve this ideal that the US president spoke of so eloquently?

Today, the hot topic in Manila among political commentators is whether the action taken by the Aquino government to prevent Mrs Arroyo from leaving was in accordance with the rule of law. On the side of those who say yes is Randy David who believes what we have now is a “rule of justices” not a bona fide rule of law thanks to the lady at the centre of the controversy. On the side of naysayers is Solita Monsod who believes the speed with which the investigation was conducted points once again to the politicisation of the process. Both make reasoned arguments in support of their views.

The president convinced of the justness of his actions and mindful of his constituents exhorted his countrymen to “not waver.” He said that

We are all working for a new Philippines, one where there is equality, where whoever does wrong, whatever his status in life may be, is punished, a country where justice rules.

Whatever the position either camp holds in this debate, all will agree that prosecuting the Arroyos has been quite a messy undertaking, much like the way President Joseph Estrada was deposed from office. The legality of it will be questioned and the merits of it will be argued for years to come in the court of public opinion.

Incidentally, 2011 is also the tenth year since Estrada’s ouster. Back in 2001, Mr Estrada will argue, the country’s elites conspired to bring a sitting and democratically elected president down by extra-constitutional means. Today, it has been argued that one faction of the elite has manipulated the legal system to jail the head of another.

In all this time, has the country progressed towards becoming a stable more prosperous country? To the analysts, the country’s growth rate over the last ten years has proven their rosy forecasts right. They will say that we are on track both demographically and economically to be a force to reckon with by 2020 and beyond.

To the “insiders” the same old problems of social inequity still prevails. One set of rules still seems to apply to one class of people, and another applies to the rest. To the administration and its followers, the Arroyos have become totemic of this system. To them successfully prosecuting and sending her swiftly to jail would prove once and for all that only one system of justice prevails in the country.

To the realists, the application of justice over the course of the next ten years will largely depend on who sits in power. By 2020, a certain boxer-legislator who happened to be one of GMA’s strongest endorsers believes he will be a strong contender for the Palace in 2022. By then he would have tucked a few billion pesos under his belt and followed a path set before by the populist Erap Estrada.

Should the reforms espoused by the current seat warmers of Malacañang not take route in the next five years the political pendulum could swing the other way and a revival of patronage-based populism with a new face could rise to replace the torch-bearers of our current elite democracy.

Similarly, China could match the US pound-for-pound in their rivalry for regional dominance. The Beijing Consensus might by then trump the Washington version. A different model for prosperity might be in play making the need for establishing common rules seem rather (how shall we put it?…) academic.

Newsbreak launched book on Arroyo scandal-ridden projects

photo by AFP

Newsbreak announced, “The Seven Deadly Deals: Can Aquino Fix Arroyo’s Legacy of Costly and Messy Projects?

The book revists Arroyo’s projects like the Northrail, the NAIA Terminal 3, the Subic-Clark-Tarlac expressway, the Metro Rail transit 3 project, the collapse of Quedan and Rural Credit Development Corporation as well as the Mount Diwalwal gold rush and the problems of the National Defense procurement.

The book was written by Roel Landingin, lala Rimando, Aries Rufo, Carmela Fonbuena, Jesus Llanto, Rey Santos, lilita Balane, and Purple Romero.

SC rules Truth Commission unconstitutional

According to a report from ABS-CBN News, the Supreme Court has dealt “another blow to to President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III’s administration” by striking down the Truth Commission, a body intended to investigate anomalies that took place during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo:

Voting 10-5, the Supreme Court ruling effectively bars the prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other officials and parties involved in alleged scandals under the previous administration.

The 5 who dissented were: Associate Justices Antonio Nachura, Antonio Carpio, Conchita Carpio Morales, Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Roberto Abad dissented.

The high court apparently gave credence to the petition of minority lawmakers led by Rep. Edcel Lagman, who sought to have the executive fiat that created the Truth Commission quashed.

The commission, tasked to investigate the anomalies during the 9-year term of Mrs. Arroyo, was created with too much power that it has already stepped on the rights of constitutionally-created bodies, they had said.

UPDATE (1220H): Updates via the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) Twitter account cite Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda describing the SC ruling as “unfortunate” during a Malacañang press conference. Lacierda added, however, that it was a “temporary setback” that would not stop the efforts of the Aquino administration toward reform and accountability. He said he was certain that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) would file a motion for consideration, and that meanwhile other options would be explored. Lacierda personally informed President Aquino of the development through a text message.



Photo credit: infographic by ABSCBNnews

A sense of drift

A series of events seems to have blunted the reform agenda that PNoy promised and sought to deliver in his first months in office.

According to the Asia Sentinel, the Supreme Court dominated as it is by appointees of his predecessor Mrs Gloria Arroyo, seems to be conducting an effective rear guard action thwarting any attempt by PNoy’s administration to invalidate the appointments she made in the dying days of her term. Marites Vitug is quoted as saying

The Arroyo court is going to be an obstacle to Aquino’s anti-corruption program. The Arroyo allies’ strategy is to legally assault Aquino through the Supreme Court, which she still controls. This is baffling to me – because the political winds have changed. But now it looks like the ties that bind her appointees to her are deep. The court may strike down the Truth Commission, uphold GMA’s midnight appointees, and stop the Ombudsman’s impeachment.

Beset by factions within his government and lacking a coherent strategy to map out the steps needed to navigate through the minefield laid by Mrs Arroyo and her allies, Ms Vitug claims that what PNoy needs is a counterpart to Jose Almonte, the chief ideologue and behind the scenes operator of the Ramos presidency.

Cielito Habito chimed in through his regular column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He waxes nostalgic for the days when a meritocratic governance style was wielded that required cabinet to close ranks behind a consensus driven process and implement decisions through intergovernmental coordination: this as a kind of back-handed compliment to Malacanang’s current occupant whom he claims could “learn a thing or two” from the example of his former boss.

The lack of standards in handling the diplomatic faux pas committed by an assistant secretary and speech writer Carmen Mislang via twitterverse at his first official state visit to Vietnam is a continuation of the leniency demonstrated in the wake of the Luneta hostage drama. This is in contrast to the ongoing vacillation over the status of interior and local government Sec Jesse Robredo in his cabinet. Solita Monsod wrote a piece over the weekend appealing to PNoy to consider the merits of keeping him in his confidence given his sterling accomplishments in the area of governance reform.

These criticisms seem to cement the notion that PNoy’s presidency is adrift in a sea of division and chaos. It appears that although Mr Aquino’s personal integrity and character make him unwilling to countenance dishonesty; by the same token, it makes him more tolerant towards incompetence when it is committed by his trusted aides.

During the 2010 campaign, many criticisms were hurled at then candidate Aquino. One of these was his lack of executive experience and leadership qualities. I in fact argued back then that his ability to attract competent and reform-minded advisers to his side allowed him to narrow these competency gaps. It now appears that PNoy’s easy-going style seems to be ill-served by a mixed bag of competent AND trusted but inexperienced and naive appointees.  The latter may have the ascendancy as they often do when the leader remains unclear or ambiguous with his directives since they can always claim to have personal insight into the inner workings of his mind.

That is the crux of the problem moving forward. PNoy needs to consider either making adjustments to his team by allowing for greater meritocracy even if that means working with people that might rub him the wrong way, or making adjustments to his leadership style by being clearer about what he wants delivered to him and the consequences for failure leaving very little wiggle room on the part of his subalterns who claim to “know what the boss wants”.

So, dear reader, as always I leave it to you to assess the merits of this argument. What in your opinion would be the best way forward?

100 Days On, Aquino’s actions fall short

Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for Asia Elaine Pearson said this today about extrjudicial abuses and the justice promises of the Aquino adminsitration:

President Aquino came into office with a mandate to abolish abusive forces and pursue justice for serious abuses. He made impassioned promises, but 100 days on we’re still waiting for action.

  Read more

Missing the Point

In the last of a three-part series entitled PNoy’s Poverty Challenge, Malou Mangahas and Che de los Reyes writing for the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism or PCIJ speak of PNoy’s Bold Blows vs Corruption, Cautious Steps vs Poverty. They are referring to his campaign slogan, kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap (which essentially presumes that corruption leads to, if not exacerbates, poverty, and that reducing corruption will help alleviate it).

Their basic complaint seems to be that PNoy is muddling through: failing to craft a narrative that builds on his presidential campaign–failing to communicate with the public his strategy for improving their plight, having been the first candidate since Erap to bring the poor under his tent.

By taking small, incremental steps, the administration avoids many of the costly mistakes associated with big social experiments that are often attended to and defended with dogmatic or ideological zeal derived as they usually are from some cult of personality. Read more

Aquino signs EO on Truth Commission

photo by Dondi Tawatao - Getty Images AsiaPac

photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty

Aquino signs EO on Truth Commission
By Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III signed on Friday Executive Order 1, creating the Truth Commission tasked to look into graft and corruption allegations that hounded the past administration.

“Today, I signed Executive Order No. 1, establishing a commission to investigate allegations of anomalies during the last nine (9) years. The process of bringing a necessary closure to the allegations of official wrongdoing and impunity has begun,” Aquino said in a statement on Friday.

Aquino said the executive order was in line with his promise to form the Truth Commission in the first 100 days of his administration.

He said that former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. will head the commission that has been tasked to investigate and seek the truth about corruption allegations that were committed over the last nine years by government officials and their accomplices in the private sector.

The commission, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said at a press conference, has until Dec. 31, 2012 to complete its mission.

This year, however, De Lima said the commission would be doing “organizational and initial stages” of its work.

Aquino EO No. 1 creating the Philippine Truth Commission

MALACAÑAN PALACE
MANILA

EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 1

CREATING THE PHILIPPINE TRUTH COMMISSION OF 2010

WHEREAS, Article XI, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines solemnly enshrines the principle that a public office is a public trust and mandates that public officers and employees, who are servants of the people, must at all times be accountable to the latter, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives;

WHEREAS, corruption is among the most despicable acts of defiance of this principle and notorious violation of this mandate;

WHEREAS, corruption is an evil and scourge which seriously affects the political, economic, and social life of a nation; in a very special way it inflicts untold misfortune and misery on the poor, the marginalized and underprivileged sector of society;

WHEREAS, corruption in the Philippines has reached very alarming levels, and undermined the people’s trust and confidence in the Government and its institutions;

WHEREAS, there is an urgent call for the determination of the truth regarding certain reports of large scale graft and corruption in the government and to put a closure to them by the filing of the appropriate cases against those involved, if warranted, and to deter others from committing the evil, restore the people’s faith and confidence in the Government and in their public servants;

WHEREAS, the President’s battlecry during his campaign for the Presidency in the last elections “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” expresses a solemn pledge that if elected, he would end corruption and the evil it breeds;

WHEREAS, there is a need for a separate body dedicated solely to investigating and finding out the truth concerning the reported cases of graft and corruption during the previous administration, and which will recommend the prosecution of the offenders and secure justice for all;

WHEREAS, Book III, Chapter 10, Section 31 of Executive Order No. 292, otherwise know as the Revised Administrative Code of the Philippines, gives the President the continuing authority to reorganize the Office of the President.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BENIGNO SIMEON AQUINO III, President of the Republic of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby order:

SECTION 1. Creation of a Commission. – There is hereby created the PHILIPPINE TRUTH COMMISSION, hereinafter referred to as the “COMMISSION”, which shall primarily seek and find the truth on, and toward this end, investigate reports of graft and corruption of such scale and magnitude that shock and offend the moral and ethical sensibilities of the people, committed by public officers and employees, their co-principals, accomplices and accessories from the private sector, if any, during the previous administration; and thereafter recommend the appropriate action or measure to be taken thereon to ensure that the full measure of justice shall be served without fear or favor.

The Commission shall be composed of a Chairman and four (4) members who will act as an independent collegial body.

SECTION 2. Powers and Functions. – The Commission, which shall have all the powers of an investigative body under Section 37, Chapter 9, Book I of the Administrative Code of 1987, is primarily tasked to conduct a thorough fact-finding investigation of reported cases of graft and corruption referred to in Section 1, involving third level public officers and higher, their co-principals, accomplices and accessories from the private sector, if any, during the previous administration and thereafter submit its finding and recommendations to the President, Congress and the Ombudsman. In particular, it shall:

a)      Identify and determine the reported cases of such graft and corruption which it will investigate;

b)      Collect, receive, review and evaluate evidence related to or regarding the cases of large scale corruption which it has chosen to investigate, and to this end require any agency, official or employee of the Executive Branch, including government-owned or controlled corporations, to produce documents, books, records and other papers;

c)      Upon proper request or representation, obtain information and documents from the Senate and the House of Representatives records of investigations conducted by committees thereof relating to matters or subjects being investigated by the Commission;

d)      Upon proper request and representation, obtain information from the courts, including the Sandiganbayan and the Office of the Court Administrator, information or documents in respect to corruption cases filed with the Sandiganbayan or the regular courts, as the case may be;

e)      Invite or subpoena witnesses and take their testimonies and for that purpose, administer oaths or affirmations as the case may be;

f)       Recommend, in cases where there is a need to utilize any person as a state witness to ensure that the ends of justice be fully served, that such person who qualifies as a state witness under the Revised Rules of Court of the Philippines be admitted for that purpose;

g)      Turn over from time to time, for expeditious prosecution, to the appropriate prosecutorial authorities, by means of a special or interim report and recommendation, all evidence on corruption of public officers and employees and their private sector co-principals, accomplices or accessories, if any, when in the course of its investigation the Commission finds that there is reasonable ground to believe that they are liable for graft and corruption under pertinent applicable laws;

h)      Call upon any government investigative or prosecutorial agency such as the Department of Justice or any of the agencies under it, and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, for such assistance and cooperation as it may require in the discharge of its functions and duties;

i)        Engage or contract the services of resource persons, professionals and other personnel determined by it as necessary to carry out its mandate;

j)        Promulgate its rules and regulations or rules of procedure it deems necessary to effectively and efficiently carry out the objectives of this Executive Order and to ensure the orderly conduct of its investigations, proceedings and hearings, including the presentation of evidence;

k)      Exercise such other acts incident to or are appropriate and necessary in connection with the objectives and purposes of this Order.

SECTION 3. Staffing Requirements. – The Commission shall be assisted by such assistants and personnel as may be necessary to enable it to perform its functions, and shall formulate and establish its organizational structure and staffing pattern composed of such administrative and technical personnel as it may deem necessary to efficiently and effectively carry out its functions and duties prescribed herein, subject to the approval of the Department of Budget and Management. The officials of the Commission shall in particular include, but not limited to, the following:

  1. General Counsel
  2. Deputy General Counsel
  3. Special Counsel
  4. Clerk of the Commission

SECTION 4. Detail of Employees. – The President, upon recommendation of the Commission, shall detail such public officers or personnel from other departments or agencies which may be required by the Commission. The detailed officers and personnel may be paid honoraria and/or allowances as may be authorized by law, subject to pertinent accounting and auditing rules and procedures.

SECTION 5. Engagement of Experts. – The Truth Commission shall have the power to engage the services of experts as consultants or advisers as it may deem necessary to accomplish its mission.

SECTION 6. Conduct of Proceedings. – The proceedings of the Commission shall be in accordance with the rules promulgated by the Commission. Hearings or proceedings of the Commission shall be open to the public. However, the Commission, motu propio, or upon the request of the person testifying, hold an executive or closed-door hearing where matters of national security or public safety are involved or when the personal safety of the witness warrants the holding of such executive or closed-door hearing. The Commission shall provide the rules for such hearing.

SECTION 7. Right to Counsel of Witnesses/Resource Persons. – Any person called to testify before the Commission shall have the right to counsel at any stage of the proceedings.

SECTION 8. Protection of Witnesses/Resource Persons. – The Commission shall always seek to assure the safety of the persons called to testify and, if necessary make arrangements to secure the assistance and cooperation of the Philippine National Police and other appropriate government agencies.

SECTION 9. Refusal to Obey Subpoena, Take Oath or Give Testimony. – Any government official or personnel who, without lawful excuse, fails to appear upon subpoena issued by the Commission or who, appearing before the Commission refuses to take oath or affirmation, give testimony or produce documents for inspection, when required, shall be subject to administrative disciplinary action. Any private person who does the same may be dealt with in accordance with law.

SECTION 10. Duty to Extend Assistance to the Commission. – The departments, bureaus, offices, agencies or instrumentalities of the Government, including government-owned and controlled corporations, are hereby directed to extend such assistance and cooperation as the Commission may need in the exercise of its powers, execution of its functions and discharge of its duties and responsibilities with the end in view of accomplishing its mandate. Refusal to extend such assistance or cooperation for no valid or justifiable reason or adequate cause shall constitute a ground for disciplinary action against the refusing official or personnel.

SECTION 11. Budget for the Commission. – The Office of the President shall provide the necessary funds for the Commission to ensure that it can exercise its powers, execute its functions, and perform its duties and responsibilities as effectively, efficiently, and expeditiously as possible.

SECTION 12. Office. – The Commission may avail itself of such office space which may be available in government buildings accessible to the public space after coordination with the department or agencies in control of said building or, if not available, lease such space as it may require from private owners.

SECTION 13. Furniture/Equipment. – The Commission shall also be entitled to use such equipment or furniture from the Office of the President which are available. In the absence thereof, it may request for the purchase of such furniture or equipment by the Office of the President.

SECTION 14. Term of the Commission. – The Commission shall accomplish its mission on or before December 31, 2012.

SECTION 15. Publication of Final Report. – On or before December 31, 2012, the Commission shall render a comprehensive final report which shall be published upon directive of the President. Prior thereto, also upon directive of the President, the Commission may publish such special interim reports it may issue from time to time.

SECTION 16. Transfer of Records and Facilities of the Commission. – Upon the completion of its work, the records of the Commission as well as its equipment, furniture and other properties it may have acquired shall be returned to the Office of the President.

SECTION 17. Special Provision Concerning Mandate. If and when in the judgment of the President there is a need to expand the mandate of the Commission as defined in Section 1 hereof to include the investigation of cases and instances of graft and corruption during the prior administrations, such mandate may be so extended accordingly by way of a supplemental Executive Order.

SECTION 18. Separability Clause. If any provision of this Order is declared unconstitutional, the same shall not affect the validity and effectivity of the other provisions hereof.

SECTION 19. Effectivity. – This Executive Order shall take effect immediately.

DONE in the City of Manila, Philippines, this 30th day of July 2010.

(SGD.) BENIGNO S. AQUINO III
By the President:

(SGD.)PAQUITO N.  OCHOA, JR.
Executive Secretary