A SCUFFLE and a shouting match marred the opening session of the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA) today, delaying the presentation of evidence against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on charges that she violated the Constitution, betrayed the public trust, and engaged in bribery, graft and corruption.

The body was supposed to begin the first of four hearings at the University of the Philippines Main Theatre in Diliman, Quezon City today but as soon as it opened, what would otherwise have been a routine presentation of witnesses was disrupted by a noisy group of  protestors who held up anti-communist placards and called the proceedings a "kangaroo court."

Pandemonium broke out when, a few minutes into CCTA spokesperson Ma. Serena Diokno’s opening speech, several men stood up with their placards and started shouting, "Communists!" The delegates shouted back and demanded that the demonstrators leave the room. Diokno, in an effort to restore order, asked the protesters to take part in the proceedings and invited them to sit in front. They refused, opting instead to leave the premises.

Once outside, they got into a fistfight with some of the CCTA supporters. UP Police broke up the scuffle and took in for questioning three of the protesters belonging to the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy, an anti-communist group. Meanwhile, the proceedings resumed in the main hall.

Around 2,000 delegates and guests from various sectors attended the four-hour hearing today. The creation of the CCTA, which was initiated by the Bukluran Para sa Katotohanan, was brought about by the dismissal of the impeachment complaint in Congress in September 7, 2005.

"Congress has denied the public the chance to know the truth and demand accountability of the President for various crimes and misdemeanors for which she is being accused," CCTA said.

The group maintained that the failure of all other Constitutional means to resolve the crisis that has been hounding the country for five months now, has reinforced the need for an "alternative venue" to ferret out the truth.

Former vice president and now chairperson of the 15-member Presidium, Teofisto Guingona Jr. said the people’s congress does not aim to render a verdict but only seeks an orderly presentation of facts. Responding to accusations that it was a "kangaroo court," Guingona said that the CCTA gives notice and opportunity to all who may be aggrieved. It also does not usurp functions of any public office since it only exercises rights in accordance with the Constitution, he said.

Guingona referred to Article XIII, Section 5 of the Constitution, which states: "The State shall respect the role of independent people’s organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means." He added it is not only a right but also the duty of citizens to seek the truth.

The CCTA is composed of the convenors, a set of presiding officers chaired by Guingona, a group of lawyers, and about 400 delegates from various sectors of society. (See the list of names and a copy of the CCTA’s charter here.)

Atty. Romeo Capulong of the Public Interest Law Center and head of the team of lawyers tasked to sift through the evidences presented, clarified in his opening statement that the Citizens’ Congress "will not conduct a trial, prosecute and impose punishment or seek the ouster" of Pres. Arroyo. This duty, he said, belongs to the government, the conscience of the President, a sovereign right that belongs to the people.

"I rise not to indict and prosecute, I rise to ask her simple questions — questions which she continues to ignore…which these proceedings will address by an honest inquiry," he said.

Using the amended impeachment complaint as its basis for its work, the scope of inquiry covers the following:

  • Electoral fraud — undermining the independence of the Commission on Elections and directing or conniving with the Commission, the military and the police to commit electoral fraud for ensuring victory in the 2004 elections and using government funds for electioneering purposes (eg. use of the agriculture fund, transfer of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration trust fund to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., and use of the Road users tax).
  • Political killings and other human-rights violations — allowing the commission of summary executions or extrajudicial killings, abduction and enforced disappearances, torture, illegal arrests and arbitrary detention and other violations in pursuit of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign and the US global war on terror;
  • Graft and corruption — approving contracts grossly disadvantageous to the government, directly or indirectly accepting payola from jueteng lords and using the money to bankroll the presidential campaign; and

Under the CCTA charter, the President can air her side and present counter evidence by sending a lawyer or representative on her behalf. The President could also opt to wait until she gets a copy of all the evidence presented and will be given 15 days to respond. After the prescribed period, the Presidium will draw its conclusions and submit its report to Citizens’ Congress for appropriate action. "The findings will be presented to the public and it’s up for the Congress, and that includes all the people, to decide," Atty. Neri Colmenares, one of the group’s lawyers, said.

House minority floor leader Rep. Francis Escudero said the CCTA actually affords Arroyo a chance to answer allegations against her; it is an opportunity, he said, that she never had during the impeachment hearings. Escudero, who is a member of the team of lawyers of the CCTA, said that apart from documentary evidence, witnesses will also be presented.

Four or five witnesses are slated to testify tomorrow at 9 a.m. at the UP College of Social Work and Community Development. Among them are former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, Danilo Ramos of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and another from the group of Migrante. Capulong said these witnesses will cover allegations of public funds used to bankroll the President’s campaign. (The CCTA will be holding its next two sessions on November 15 and 16 at Makati).

Rep. Allan Cayetano, also a lawyer of the CCTA tasked to present evidence, maintained that it was former presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. who won in the last elections and not Arroyo. Cayetano, using a 14-minute video, presented evidences supporting his claim.

"When you cheat, you are automatically the loser (regardless of whether you won or not)," he said.

These evidences, such as padding and shaving of votes, substituting election returns (ERs) with fake and tampered ones, and other more were basically the same with what the minority has already presented before. All documents will be turned over to the CCTA for examination.

Cayetano at the end of his presentation challenged the President: " We are not here to convict you. But you refuse to answer the question the 80 million Filipinos are asking. We appeal to you. Do not fight the Citizens’ Congress, but embrace it. We promise you fairness." He added that he and his group are willing to resign and issue an apology should the President prove that she did not cheat.

Environment Secretary Michael Defensor, who reportedly said that he was willing to attend the hearings and defend the President, did not make it to today’s event. His representative and legal counsel, Atty. Cybill Uytiepo, said Defensor was only notified yesterday and previous engagements prevented him from coming. She cannot say, however, if the secretary will still be willing to attend the next hearings.

Uytiepo was the sole representative of the administration.

Voltaire Tupaz, one of the delegates and who represents the Environment and Natural Resources Advocates for the Expulsion of GMA, said people should respect the proceedings of the CCTA. "It (Citizen’s Congress) has a political value, even if it does not attempt to prosecute. The people who are depoliticized because of this repression of truth can now have their chance to articulate and assert their demands to know the truth." Guingona said that the government will only end up making a mockery of themselves should they ridicule the process. "They threaten us with reprisals but we will not relent."

"Public office is a public trust and if that trust is betrayed then people have the right to know who and how their trust was breached, where and when the deadly distortions took place. Otherwise, if the other means are blocked for vital information, if the doors to government recourse are duly slammed especially if done by the very persons mandated to uphold that trust, then governance becomes a sham, accountability is lost and even a restive nation maybe doomed to perdition," he stressed.

23 Responses to Citizens’ congress opens not with a bang
but with a fistfight

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Chabeli

November 8th, 2005 at 11:21 pm

Day 1 of the session of the CCTA is the beginning of the story for the TRUTH. No one may know how this will all play out, but with hope and prayers, 08 November 2005 is the first day towards a better Philippines.

Mabuhay ang CCTA!

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oscar

November 8th, 2005 at 11:38 pm

mabuhay po ang CCTA,
sana ito na po ang umpisa para tayong mga pilipino ay magkaisa
at ating patalsikin ang peking pangulong GMA.

di po ba itong grupong ANAD ay nandun sa Garci tape na isa
sa mga partylist na gustong palusutin ng isang tao na tiga malakanyang
na nakiki pag usap kay Garci?

eto siguro ang papel ng ANAD upang manalo nun elections bilang
tagapagtangol ni GMA,kagaya po ni Rep Marcoleta at ang Ama ni Mike Defensor na si Rep Mat Defensor.
alam po namin na ang nanalo na Rep ng 3rd district sa QC ay si dating
Consehal Daza po.

maraming salamat at mabuhay po ang CCTA
mabuhay po ang pilipino.

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Chabeli

November 8th, 2005 at 11:49 pm

Read an article at http://www.viewfromthewindow.blogspot.com. It is a short and interesting article also about TRUTH…

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ryebosco

November 9th, 2005 at 12:57 am

I am all for truth:
1. Truth of the matter is that our country is one of the poorest.
2. Truth of the matter is that the Philippines is one of the, if not, most corrupt in Asia.
3. Truth of the matter is most of us have no jobs and are underemployed.
4. Truth of the matter is our universities are ranked almost dead last in Asia.
5. Truth of the matter is we have other cheaters and thieves that are not included in this “truth and accountability” presidium.

My point is, if we’re going after a devil, why not incinerate the whole hell and go for Satan’s army? Why focus on just one? Why perpetuate Manuel Quezon’s, “I would rather have a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos…?” Is it because our country has become incorrigible that we can’t really use fire to eradicate fire?

I’m sick of hell Manuel Quezon. I want a Philippines run like heaven by Filipinos! Is that possible?

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polo

November 9th, 2005 at 1:50 am

The panacea for lies and apathy is truth. It is the greatest value a human can have. There are no secrets that cannot be uncover as what the Bible says.

GMA’s cheating and lying just to stay in power is a great tragedy to Filipino’s sense of honor and perhaps a great slap to our Christian belief. She pretends to pray piously but in reality she don’t practice the value of truth.

She hopes that by resolute defiance and hiding the truth will dampen the spirit of Filipino people and eventually forget her trespasses. But, I believe that despite the prevalence of poverty and hardship, Filipinos still cherish and believe the vitality of truth. It is just a matter of time that truth will triumph. It always does.

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Toro

November 9th, 2005 at 5:23 am

TRUST is an important element in any relationship. Break it and it becomes distrust. The relationship is done. Distrust leads to suspicion, suspicion generates anger, anger causes enmity and enmity is what I see everywhere. Enmity towards a distrusted leader.

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benign0

November 9th, 2005 at 6:39 am

Well, the truth is staring us in the face — the truth of our dismal failure to prosper as a people — COLLECTIVELY. It is a collective failure, not one we can attribute to any one person, any one institution, and any one external entity.

We have to take accountability for our failure to build a strong nation. This “Citizen’s Congress” bullshit is another example of the machinations of the politicians that we love to love or love to villify (whatever suits our showbiz tastes of the moment). There is no one person to crucify, and certainly there is no one group that can do the crucifying. We cheered in Edsa 1 when Cory set up Congress to “represent” the people. Now we jeer it and hollow-headedly attempt to set up yet another one. What next? Shall we find ourselves jeering this “Citizen’s Congress” 2-3 years from now?

What then? Do we set up a “Citizen’s Congress II”?

Pinoy nga naman talaga.

ha ha! 😀

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benign0

November 9th, 2005 at 6:43 am

Here’s what I think: This “Citizen’s Congress” is yet another extraconstitutional device that the opposition has devised to undermine the nation’s stability, to create an environment of dissent so that they could make their move(s).

Because People Power has already died miserably, there seems to be a vacuum in Philippine society for another such extraconstitional device for changing governments.

We are so in love with extraconstititional change that we are like the main character in the novel “Pet Sematary” by the venerable Stephen King. A beloved pet has died and we are resorting to various hollow-headed voodoo methodologies to revive zombies to carry on our favourite past times.

ha ha! 😀

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benign0

November 9th, 2005 at 7:32 am

O eto ha, mga kabayan,

Paakyat na raw ang peso as this INQ7.net article reports:

http://news.inq7.net/nation/index.php?index=1&story_id=55936

Shall we continue with our petty bickering or shall we focus more on such key performance indicators (KPIs) as a means to determine what we should be focusing on.

Sure nan-daya si Pandak, but it seems that investor confidence (which our beggar nation depends on for its livelihood) seems to be indifferent to that.

Ask da masa. Do they want their wallets fattened as the favourable exchange rate makes the remittances of their hard-working relatives overseas become more valuable, or do we want this “perception” jeopardised by our hollow-headed street politics and “alternative” judiciaries and legislatures (e.g. those bullshit “people’s courts” and “citizen’s congresses” that proliferate like teenage fads).

We complain endlessly about rising fuel prices but the fact remains that these rises are accounted for significantly by forex rates because our economy is so pathetically dependent on imported fuel. Yet we fail to notice that our pettiness, shortsightedness and love of showbiz politics contribute greatly to the perception we bring across to the global financial community which at the click of a mouse can either flatten or prop up our puny currency.

Think about it folks the next time you decide to dance to the tune of the politicians and lawyers you love to hate.

ha ha! 😀

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Toro

November 9th, 2005 at 8:08 am

“Why perpetuate Manuel Quezon’s, ‘I would rather have a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos’ … I want a Philippines run like heaven by Filipinos! Is that possible?”

You have a point there, Rye, and I think that’s where the politicians of today took off. Quezon’s profound words were meant to stress a nationalist’s concept, but you know, the rascals took it’s meaning literally.

Heaven is not on earth, Rye. Sorry to disappoint you.

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Toro

November 9th, 2005 at 10:07 am

That group that instigated the trouble at the CCTA showed no concern for the rights of others. The CCTA is an act of expression for those who felt deceived by the impeachment. Whether one is a pro or anti GMA the fact remains the impeachment, the results of which was maniplated, may be likened to a kangaroo court too, which is the very issue that those who caused the trouble at CCTA are calling the congress to be.

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ricelander

November 9th, 2005 at 10:51 am

That’s the trouble with truth: it’s like one big fart that refuses to be suppressed. Stop it with all your might, one unexpected moment it would just bursts out to your deep, deep embarrassment, inside a packed elevator perhaps, stench and all. Ha ha.

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Cromwell6

November 9th, 2005 at 1:12 pm

What to me is quite perturbing has been the cropping up of venues for jurists I find to be more to irk our youth into a protracted war of words to perhaps even confuse things, pit us into bitter bloodier conflicts. Push and push to agitate our soldiers into taking sides, this is to be Civil War they want and nothing else.

The problem is cheating in elections, how about corruption in government? I think that we’re missing the very core of the problem by missing out on how we can firstly handle clean-up the process of elections thus remove corruption in government.

The president already apologized, how about the rest of our senators who I believe has more to seek aplogies for, after which, let us overhaul the system and not be gods or acting like one, jurists amongst what?

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manuelbuencamino

November 9th, 2005 at 1:27 pm

So was policeman Querol in UP to make sure anti- CCTA demonstrators had a permit?

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baycas

November 9th, 2005 at 1:33 pm

on gloria’s banter today not to answer atty. capulong’s simple questions:

“Is your faith so weak that you don’t tolerate questioning? If it’s true then fear not the truth. Only that which is false fears the truth,” quoting michael p. westhead.

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obet

November 9th, 2005 at 2:16 pm

Citizens Congress – isa na namang paraan ng oposisyon para linlangin ang taongbayan para sa kanilang pansariling interes. Huwag na tayong magpaka-hipokrito. Alam naman natin ang magiging kalalabasan ng “zarsuelang” ito, GUILTY ang pangulo sa lahat ng akusasyon nito. At tapos, sasabihin nila : “The findings will be presented to the public and it’s up to the Congress, including the people to decide”.

So another rallies, confrontations in the streets and uncertainties. Pati ang dating kagalang-galang na bise presidente Guingona, nagpagamit sa mga ambisyosong pulitiko. Kung sana ang binuo na lamang nila ay isang “Citizens Economy Congress” kung saan tatalakayin kung papaano makaka-ahon ang bansa sa kahirapan.

Malamang baka sumali pa ako.

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assumptionista

November 9th, 2005 at 3:57 pm

no obet, the real zarsuela was our last presidential election. At makaka ahon lang ang bansa natin kung mayroong tunay na hustisya!

The reason why the issue of cheating has not died down is because it was not answered properly. GMA has been refusing to answer the accusations againts her. Rallies and uncertainties are not brought about by poeple who seek the truth, but rather cause by people who are doing everything to hide it, at the expense of the whole country!!

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INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » ANAD analyzed

November 9th, 2005 at 6:21 pm

[…] BEARING anti-communist placards, engaging the audience in a shouting match, and later in fisticuffs, members of the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) disrupted the opening of the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability’s (CCTA) first of a series of hearings yesterday at the U.P. Theater. […]

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kapatiran

November 13th, 2005 at 11:40 am

The reality is that the leftist organizers of this KANGAROO COURT ordered the dispersal of the legitimate protest action of the members of ANAD. And they did that in style… with brutal punches… not with water cannons, hahaha!

Engaging the audience in fistcuffs? That’s hearsay and double hearsay! hahaha!

I was there as an observer, and I saw what happened. These leftists really had a dose of their own medicine. They always do that in Congress and in government offices. They shout to hell.

The KANGAROO COURT is a KANGAROO COURT is a KANGAROO COURT!

Hey, have you heard of Operation Missing Link? Olympia? Kampanyang Ahos? Kadena de Amor?

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kapatiran

November 13th, 2005 at 11:53 am

Bobby Garcia wrote…
“Some say that freedom is relative. One man’s freedom is another man’s bondage.”
(from the book, “TO SUFFER THY COMRADES”)
This book narrates the accounts of the CPP’s Kangaroo Courts and genocidal campaign against its own members who were “suspected” of being “agents” of the military. Thousands of innocent CPP members were ordered executed by the KANGAROO COURT of the left based on perception and unsubstantiated charges.

Oh well, they have come out in the open and are now making a mockery of the country’s judicial system with this so-called “people’s court” which is nothing but a KANGAROO COURT!

Spine-tingling really especially if we will remember what happened in Cambodia during the time of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, China during the time of Mao Tse Tung, and Russia during the time of Joseph Stalin.

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Toro

November 13th, 2005 at 2:55 pm

It’s sad that Tito Guingona’s antipathy towards Gloria has led him right into the palm of the communist left. He’s a friend and know him quite well.

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INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » CCTA witnesses tell of human rights abuses

November 16th, 2005 at 2:31 pm

[…] ON the eve of the anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre in Tarlac, the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA) yesterday held the President accountable for what it described as the "worsening" human rights situation in the country. […]

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good egg

November 16th, 2005 at 5:21 pm

this “people’s court” was established precisely because its initiators have already prejudged arroyo as guilty. they are making a mockery of the country’s judicial system, which is a shame because this is led by lawyers who ought to know better. they should all be disbarred.

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