Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Instead of a Truth Commission, why not an Impunity Commission?

The Supreme Court shot down President Noynoy Aquino’s Proclamation 1 setting up the Truth Commission because it ostensibly violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

It was illegal, the court said, for the present administration to go after the sins of its predecessor exclusively.

If this was the bone magistrates chose to pick, the President’s men argued, they can revise Proclamation 1 and empower the Commission to look at top-level malfeasance all the way back to Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolutionary republic.

That raises some questions about the purpose of a Truth Commission. Is it really after the truth? Without prosecutorial or punitive powers, what will it do with its findings?

Instead of linearly extending the powers of the Truth Commission, why not spatially enlarge it to encompass the vital issues affecting millions of Filipinos at home and abroad.

Why not a transform the Truth Commission into an independent investigative body to look at the culture of impunity in the country that is the root of many evils, including the administration of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and finds ways to avoid repeating our mistakes (mind you, we committed the mistakes, not her...she just worked with a system that was already in place)?

Ultimately, Mrs. Arroyo’s key talent was thriving in the culture of impunity already existing, working it to her advantage and in the process, strengthening it further.

P-Noy can reprise Tita Glo and, assuming his lawyers don’t work like fumbling fools, likely will get away with it, perhaps more.

No, if P-Noy is serious in reforms as he says he is, he must attack the problem at the roots.

“The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption,” the State Department noted, but they were not used effectively leading to “officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity”.

Lawyer Harry Roque, commenting on the Supreme Court acquittal of the Vizconde Massacre suspects and fugitive Senator Ping Lacson, declared “the Philippine justice system is an absolute failure”.

There’s always been a chorus of disgruntled Pinoys who, because they can’t understand why crooks get away, sometimes fall to the temptation of being one themselves. It’s easy enough and everybody’s doing it, even the rich and powerful, their argument goes.

“The law provides for an independent judiciary,” the State Department human rights report said, “however, the judicial system suffered from corruption and inefficiency. Personal ties and sometimes bribery resulted in impunity for some wealthy or influential offenders and contributed to widespread skepticism that the judicial process could ensure due process and equal justice.”

An impunity commission will not overlap with the constitutionally mandated graft agencies like the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) whose job is to recover ill-gotten wealth; or the Ombudsman, mandated to prosecute erring state officials.

An impunity commission – similar to the one in Guatemala – can investigate, gather evidence and recommend the filing of cases or propose legislation to address the problem of impunity in the Philippines.

More importantly, it should generate grassroots support to stop impunity by educating the public, ensuring transparency and the full accountability of public officials as well as private individuals and organizations.

Sure, such an impunity commission can delve into GMA’s “Seven Deadly Deals” as outlined by the investigate journal Newsbreak, focusing on how “public funds were wasted and misused”.

Working on the premise set by Dr. Martin Luther King that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, an impunity commission can also look into the murder of journalists, peasant leaders, priests and union organizers – and more importantly, why no one’s been punished for them; continued operation of illegal recruiters preying on overseas-bound Filipino workers; the existence of over a hundred well-armed private armies in the country; why half of Philippine businesses paid bribes to win government contracts or half of lawyers said judges received bribes but only 8% said they reported it, according to separate Social Weather Station surveys.

Forget Hubert Webb, General Garcia or Senator Lacson for a while.

Why has the Ombudsman done nothing to prosecute 44 cases of extrajudicial killings blamed on soldiers and policemen since 2006 even after the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions pointed this out?

Whatever happened to officials of PEA executives, who according to a 1998 Senate investigation, pocketed P1.7 billion in “commissions” in exchange for approving a deal for the Italian-Filipino joint venture Amari to acquire three reclaimed islands in Manila Bay?

Why did 9 out of 10 people prosecuted by the Ombudsman go scot free in the first four months of 2010?

Why do only about a third of Philippines businesses issue receipts and only 11% say they pay the right taxes, based on a 2003 SWS Enterprise survey?

Why is there a dismally low number of cases (938 from 2003-2009 with only 8 convictions as of July 2010) filed for trafficking and illegal recruitment – which victimized about 3,000 Filipinos, mostly women – this year alone, according to the TUCP, and after the Philippines was put in a US Tier 2 watch-list for the 2nd year in a row?

P-Noy really needs to get his act together; otherwise impunity will run roughshod all over his dream of a “tuwid na daan”.

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