LAWYERS at the Palace have been burning the midnight oil scrutinizing nearly a thousand appointments made by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in various government agencies, including state-run corporations, from January this year until she bowed out of office on June 30.
One lawyer says the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) has so far tracked 977 Arroyo appointments in the last six months of her nine-year reign. “The list is growing,” says another lawyer involved in the rigid review of documents on the appointments but who is too timid to be named.
SHE ALREADY created a furor with her “midnight appointments,” or appointments made on the eve of an election ban. Yet a month after the May 10, 2010 elections, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo still managed to sneak in a final batch of 13 appointments on the eve of her departure from office.
Arroyo signed the appointments on June 10, 2010 even as dusk had settled on her presidency. She did so seemingly oblivious to the fact that the day before, June 9, the joint congressional committee of Congress, which canvassed the votes, had already proclaimed Benigno Simeon Aquino III as the new President of the Republic.
NUMBERS – people, cases, funds – are a messy, maddening mix in the courts. The numbers defy all myth and romance about the majesty and dread that literature ascribes to the men and women in robes, and indications are they pose a perpetual challenge for the administrators of the country’s judicial system.
Indeed, attempts of the judiciary to keep a firm grip on its budget and fiscal processes alone have already triggered periodic delays in completing audit reports, as well as caused recurring disputes on compliance with budget circulars that should apply across the bureaucracy.
AMID the relentless reticence of the justices of the Supreme Court to publicly disclose their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), the PCIJ launched a research into what could be their business interests and financial holdings by mining public records.
Our first stop was the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), where we found various companies listing the names of various justices as either incorporators, stockholders or board members. To verify the list, the PCIJ gathered the latest Articles of Incorporation, General Information Sheets, and Financial Statements of these companies.
GOOD GOVERNANCE is the solemn promise of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. Transparency and respect for access to information could enable it; the rule of law, or the prosecution of cases built on evidence before the courts, could assure it endures.
In President Aquino’s epic effort to rid the government of corruption, the judiciary will perform the critical role of arbiter, judge, and guardian. Yet the judiciary itself is nurturing a black hole of information, which could swallow into nothingness initiatives to limit, if not stop, corruption.
THE 15th Congress must adopt, refile and pass with dispatch the version of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act that was aborted in the 14th Congress because of the feigned absence of a quorum on the last session day of the House of Representatives last June 4.
In a statement, the Right to Know Right Now! Coalition of over 160 civil society groups and leaders said, “the new senators and congressmen may do well not to repeat the processes so they can save valuable time and even more valuable taxpayers’ money.”
Veteran journalist Ed Lingao, Multimedia Director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) won the 2010 Marshall Mcluhan Fellowship award from the Embassy of Canada, for his outstanding reportage on human rights, governance and election reforms, as well as for breaking new ground in the practice of multimedia journalism.
FOUR MORE members of the House of Representatives yesterday said they were among those wrongly named as absent — according to a list provided by Speaker Prospero Nograles to the media – during the roll call at the Session Hall last Friday, June 4, when the ratification of the Freedom of Information Act was scuttled for supposed lack of a quorum.
The four bring to eight the number of lawmakers erroneously tagged as not physically present during the roll call.
The eight bring to 136 – one more than the 135 threshold for a quorum in the 269-member House – the number of lawmakers that was needed to constitute a quorum and act on the motion to ratify the FOI bicameral conference committee report.
House Majority Leader Arthur Defensor motions to ratify the Freedom of Information Act, which was objected to by Camiguin representative Pedro Romualdo. Romualdo is prepared to be ‘condemned’ for blocking the passage of the proposed legislation as he questioned the lack of quorum in the chamber ‘as a matter of principle’.
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