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San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

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Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Friday, September 23, 2005

Let My Bert Go

Ever since the advent of ANC, Senate committee investigations have become theater or at the level of the masses, the new telenovela. Not only do senators play to the gallery, they have learned the difference between hot and cold mediums and have adjusted their countenance, not to mention their make-up and eye shadow, accordingly.

Perhaps, it is because of the prevalence of movie actors in the Senate or perhaps, the actors themselves consider the Senate as another movie role to play that broadcast media has indulged them with newfound attention.

We have seen witnesses make fools of themselves, or used the witness stand as a jump-off point to infamy or heightened self-righteousness. But to date, none has taken the witness stand who has fallen so low and endured such ignominious disgrace as the National Security Adviser, Norberto Gonzales.

But this is not about his disgrace. It is about whether the Senate has achieved the purpose for conducting this investigation-in-aid-of-legislation.

The purpose of the investigation was to pass a corrective law in order to avoid another occurrence of the Venable contract and to address the following queries: (a) Did Mr. Gonzales have the authority to sign for the Republic? (b) Where did and will the government source the funds for compensating the Venable law firm for its lobby efforts? Corollary thereto, who were the private donors alleged to have paid the down payment for the contract? (c) Why the attendant secrecy in inking the deal?

The hearing that ensued exposed the weak stilts upon which the Venable contract was consummated. Mr. Gonzales was as evasive in his answers as much as he was bifurcating the issues. In the end, the patience of the Senate, which was not as legendary as Job’s in the first place, was clearly exhausted and cited him for contempt.

But, not being a member of the Senate, I do not share their pain. And from a detached view, the Senate investigation on the Venable contract was unnecessary because the senators already knew beforehand the answers to the queries in aid of legislation. Even the refusal of Mr. Gonzales to answer some pointed questions would not detract the senators from coming out with a law.

And what would that be? The corrective law may, in essence, contain the following provisions: (a) No contract binding the Republic must be executed without written authority from the president, and without the a written clearance and/or opinion from the Secretary of Justice or the Presidential Legal Counsel; (b) A contract with a foreign lobby firm by the government must be disclosed within thirty days from execution of the contract; (c) No private funds may be allowed to pay for funding a lobby effort subject to certain exceptions and existing guidelines of the Commission of Audit and such exceptions must disclose the identity of the private donors and their financial interests.

Clearly, the Senate, even with the contumacious conduct of Mr. Gonzales or even without his testimony, can easily propose new legislation to prevent another Venable nightmare. Mr. Gonzales’ non-answers ironically addressed all the concerns of the Senate with the exception of the identities of the private donors. That may not even be a priority any longer considering the scrapping of the contract.

Granted that the Senate can pass the necessary legislation, should they just ignore the manner by which Mr. Gonzales treated the Senate or the insult inflicted upon the institution? By all means, the Senate can teach him an object lesson on parliamentary protocol and detain Mr. Gonzales for thirty days or so. But he must be let go.

Mr. Gonzales’ detention does not add one whit to the prestige of the Senate nor does his release diminish its contempt powers. At this stage, the Senate's exercise of its contempt powers is largely symbolic in the light of the fact that it already has the legal wherewithal to address the Venable concerns. Symbolic as it is, it nonetheless sends a stern reminder to the Executive branch that it is co-equal and not to send simpletons to confound them.

It is on that point that having the legislative query answered as well as a generous display of its magnanimity that the Senate should let the National Security Adviser go.

It would also do well for the President to let him go.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Arbet said...

I agree that the Senate's power to cite someone in contempt and detain is scary. But I think Mr. Gonzales deserved it.

Sayang it was not done with Jose Pidal. Tsk tsk.

I agree that they should release the liar, maybe next week. But I don't think GMA will let him go, as she needs people like him till 2010.

BTW, in what law is it stated that rallyists should secure a permit? If a mayor doesn't issue a permit, would that constitute a violation of the Bill of Rights?

2:08 PM  
Anonymous dawin said...

Arbet,

President Marcos issued a presidential decree (i dont recall the number) that requires a permit for rallies to be held.

It was issued under the justification that while expressions of free speech are guaranteed, it must be done in a peaceful and orderly fashion. That was the philosophy behind the P. D.

I think it would constitute a violation of the Bill of Rights if despite complying with the standards as set forth in the P.D, the mayor refuses to issue a permit. Then, it becomes arbitrary and violative.

But you are right about mayor's permits not being granted in Q. C. and Manila, somebody must question the exercise by these mayors.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bert Gonzales was always a space cadet. He was always drawn to wild-eyed schemes. I remember during Cory Aquino's term how he and Butz Aquino foolishly paraded Nur Misuari as if he were the solution to peace in Mindanao. He managed to talk Cory and Butz into crazy projects. Kit Tatad was also once an ally in his socialist party. Over the years, I had thought that people were wise to his crazy schemes.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Arbet said...

Thanks for the info, sir.

(GMA using a Marcos law - sends a chill in my spine.)

5:43 PM  
Blogger Punzi said...

I'll do a blog lecture on BP 880 tomorrow...

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BOOK:Confessions of An Economic Hit Man
http://www.economichitman.com/pages/veracity.html
http://johnperkins.org/pagina_nueva_3.htm

"Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization. I should know; I was an EHM."

John Perkins as an economic hit man (EHM), his job was to convince Third World countries to accept enormous loans for infrastructure development—loans that were much larger than needed—and to guarantee that the development projects were contracted to U.S. corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel. Once these countries were saddled with huge debts, the U.S. government and the international aid agencies allied with it were able to control these economies and to ensure that oil and other resources were channeled to serve the interests of building a global empire.

In his EHM capacity, John traveled all over the world—to Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East—and was either a direct participant in or witness to some of the most dramatic events in modern history, including the Saudi Arabian Money-laundering Affair, the fall of the shah of Iran, the death of Panama’s President Omar Torrijos, the subsequent invasion of Panama, and events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

10:34 AM  

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