IT was a decision certainly most welcome to Malacañang, and in particular, to Romulo Neri, the former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority whose claim of executive privilege the Supreme Court upheld by a vote of 9-6 yesterday.

To senators though, as well as to legal and political experts, and advocates of good governance, transparency and public accountability, the High Court’s ruling is anything but acceptable.

“This is unfortunate,” remarked Senate President Manuel Villar, describing the SC decision as a “historical blot in the nation’s cherished tenets of democracy, truth and justice.”

“We respect the decision of the SC but it has to be said that those three questions that the magistrates said should not be asked, are the same questions that are left hanging on the people’s minds,” claimed Villar.

With the SC decision, senators can no longer ask Neri whether Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo followed up the national broadband network (NBN) project with him; whether he was dictated to prioritize the Chinese firm ZTE Corporation; and whether Arroyo told him to go ahead and approve the project despite being told about the alleged bribe.

“It was a terrible decision,” deplored Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. “It allows crime cover-up in the guise of executive privilege. (It’s) unprecedented. It emasculates the Senate’s investigative function,” he said, snidely adding that the Senate should consider folding up as a result.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan called the ruling a “legal setback,” saying it was most unfortunate that the majority of the justices leaned more in favor of Neri’s claim of executive privilege than with the quest for the truth about the national broadband network scandal. Pangilinan also maintained that the people deserve to know whether or not the president acted unlawfully after having been informed that the NBN deal, then under negotiations, was tainted with unlawful and illegal acts.

“I don’t see how executive privilege can be allowed under these circumstances,” he asserted.

Though respectfully disagreeing with the SC ruling, Pangilinan said the Senate will not be prevented from getting to the bottom of the truth about the NBN scandal.

“We will file a motion for reconsideration,” assured the independent senator. But in the meantime, Pangilinan said he will move that Neri be subpoenaed so that he can be asked other questions on the alleged involvement of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the NBN transaction.

“If he refuses to speak up without justifiable grounds, I will move that he be cited in contempt of the Senate and detained,” said Pangilinan. “As a co-equal to the Judiciary and the Supreme Court, the Senate will not allow interference in purely legislative matters by other branches of government and we will assert our constitutional status as a co-equal.”

With the way the voting went, eight of 12 Arroyo-appointed justices siding with the majority decision, lawyer Nepomuceno Malaluan said the Supreme Court cannot escape the charge that it may have been a “politically biased court.”

“I think the Supreme Court is tainted by this decision…This is a sad day for checks and balances in the Philippines,” lamented Malaluan, spokesperson of the Access to Information Network (ATIN), an advocacy group seeking the passage of an access to information law to operationalize constitutional guarantees on the people’s right to know.

Malaluan said there was clearly no state secret involved in the three questions. “It’s really bending, twisting even, to be able to sustain the link to a supposed state secret. We know the arguments, the questions, and they are so remotely related to the claim of state secret.”

“The only thing there is here is deliberative process privilege as a species of executive privilege, but this has to be weighed against other interests involved. And clearly, the weighing should have been in favor of disclosure.”

But the problem, he added, is with the ruling’s long-term effect on transparency on government action. “It gives an already powerful president an even greater elbow room, even as the Lower House by its own default has already conceded much to the president, and the Senate tried to stand up, but is faced with this.”

The SC ruling also expands the capacity of the president to deny access to public documents, claimed Malaluan. “Quite broadly, in fact,” pointing out how it’s not even consistent with the standards laid out by the Court in the Ermita case.

And with the majority decision providing no clear guidelines, Malaluan said it’s tantamount to a blanket authority, which would not surprise him if Arroyo will use to the hilt.

Vince Lazatin of the Transparency and Accountability Network expressed much the same view. “The SC decision on Neri’s petition is a big blow to the people’s right to know, our democracy, and transparency. It also exposes the frailty of our institutions. the executive is further ensconced behind the thick walls of its panic room,” he said.

For political analyst Ramon Casiple, the Supreme Court lost out as an institution with its decision to uphold Neri’s claim of executive privilege.

“While the SC may have the legal and constitutional basis to make that decision, the political effect is to downgrade the credibility of the SC itself,” citing the fact that newly appointed Justice Arturo Brion, a former member of Arroyo’s cabinet, concurred with the majority.

“There was really suspicion that his appointment came with a price,” said Casiple. “He could have just abstained. But the fact that he voted and sided with Malacañang’s position speaks of his lack of delicadeza.”

On his blog, human rights lawyer Theodore Te of the Free Legal Assistance Group also criticized what he called Brion’s “surprising lack of becoming modesty” for “voting on a petition where he did not participate and where popular sentiment held that his appointment was precisely to forestall the effects of a (Presbitero) Velasco inhibition.”

Velasco, along with Corona, were asked to inhibit from the SC’s deliberations on the executive privilege invoked by Neri for their perceived partiality. Velasco was alleged to be a “golf buddy” of Neri while Corona’s wife is reported to be an appointee of Arroyo.

Te also saw an “uncharacteristic lack of becoming modesty” in de Castro, who penned the majority decision, as her appointment, he said, was “clearly seen as a reward for convicting Estrada.”

“We thought the Supreme Court is the last institution that’s left undamaged by what Arroyo has done to our institutions,” said Malaluan. “This only confirms that the SC is not the court of last resort.”

University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque was even more unforgiving in his assessment of the High Court. “This marks the beginning of the end of an independent judiciary. We now have a court with striking similarity to the Marcos Supreme Court that shirked from its obligation to defend the Constitution.”

Roque was referring to the time more than 30 years ago when then President Ferdinand Marcos managed to get the highest court of the land to endorse an anomalous ratification of a new charter he had tailor-made to suit his needs. After Marcos had his own citizens’ assemblies “overwhelmingly ratif(ying)” the 1973 Constitution, he issued a proclamation saying the people have spoken and that their decision must be respected even by the Supreme Court since sovereignty resides in the people.

He also believes that the decision has made the Senate into a “toothless tiger” — a situation that will in turn further undermine the cause of good governance and public accountability.

What the SC decision has done, Casiple said, is to polarize the nation even more. Saying that the people have made up their minds about the truth (in the NBN scandal) already, he thinks what the justices did was to “further burden(ed) the people with the responsibility of exercising sovereign direct democratic action in settling the political crisis.”

Casiple acknowledges though that the political crisis will be a protracted one — extending to months, and even years — given the obstacles at this time, as shown by the failure of power institutions to “enforce the majority people’s will expressed time and again in surveys, street actions, and other fora of direct democracy.”

11 Responses to ‘A terrible decision’



March 26th, 2008 at 11:30 pm

As I said before in this website the issue of executive privilege boils down into this very simple issue: “a corrupt executive being pursued by a corrupt ongress and the issue is being debated in a corrupt court.

Oh boy, we are totally screwed!!!



March 27th, 2008 at 12:24 am

My March 6 post:

“As I said, the war over GMA’s ouster is being waged not only in the judicial trenches but also in the political landscapes, i.e., in the minds and hearts of the Filipino people.

Expect those group who would not be happy with whatever resolution the SC may come up with over the issue of “executive privileges”, to hit the political trenches again and renew on the streets their clamor for GMA to resign, under the guise of championing the cause of the Filipino people, instead of potraying their purely selfish political interest.

While I am not a believer of the SC in terms of probity, morality and good judgment, its role on the case seem to water down whatever partisan fire between the pro-GMA and the Anti-GMA. Skittish over the possibility that both may be able to persuade these “distinguished jurists” to come to their side and therefore reinfore their arsenal against the other, the entire exercise seems worth exploring, but in reality, nobody cares what the SC will say, unless it would say something favorable to their cause…. the “rule of law” is hardly the issue, but whose position is bettered by the SC’s “mediation” or “pontification”.

Oh, boy. Obviously I would be better off as a clairvoyant than a half-wit political analyst.



March 27th, 2008 at 12:31 am

“What the SC decision has done, Casiple said, is to polarize the nation even more. Saying that the people have made up their minds about the truth (in the NBN scandal) already, he thinks what the justices did was to “further burden(ed) the people with the responsibility of exercising sovereign direct democratic action in settling the political crisis.”

Wow!!!!. They really believe that these surveys are the true expression of the people and the street parliamentarians represent the collective act of the Filipino people.

Grapple with the realities boys and girls and learn the basic principle of “de facto government”. Despite the flawed 2004 Presidential elections, GMA was recognized by other nations as the lawfully elected President. You have to establish your own government, seek support from the people, asked other nations to recognize you before claiming that you are the “voice of the people”.

Right now, please spare us with the nationalistic babble that your position represents the position of the people.

Oh boy, we are totally screwed.



March 27th, 2008 at 9:18 pm

sa mga officials na sangkot diyan sa zte scandal:
kung wala kayong tinatago, bakit ayaw niyong magsalita?
kung wala kayong hiya sa taong bayan na ninanakawan niyo, mahiya man lang kayo sa mga apo niyo!



March 27th, 2008 at 9:22 pm

kung wala silang tinatago, matagal na dapat nagsalita yang mga yan.



March 28th, 2008 at 2:13 am


May itinatago nga kaya ayaw magsalita. Pero wala pa namang nadedenggoy na pera sa bayan dahil iyong utang na binabalak para pondohan ang ZTE ay nabolilyaso.

Iyong mukha nga lang nating mga Pilipino ang umani ng katakot takot na gasgas at sugat sa kahihiyan. Pero sa ating kultura ay parang ito ang kalakaran: suhulan at pakapalan na lang ng mukha.

Kung mayroon mang perang umagos iyon ay perang galing ZTE na ayon sa medya umabot daw ng $41 milyon kaya’t ang ZTE ay galit na galit at na sa likod pa yata ng pagpapatalsik kay GMA para mabawi ang nabolilyasong “investment”.



March 28th, 2008 at 4:42 pm

“hanggang kailan kaya maitatago ng administrasyon ang kanilang mga kababalaghan”.

since most of the justices are appointed by the president, it is not surprising if their decisions will favor malacanang.


philippine democracy

March 29th, 2008 at 5:40 am

Well, on the other hand….I think, under a constitutional democracy, people need to set aside their comprehensive views, metaphysical, moral or otherwise, and let the political conception work, which means, to allow our basic institutions do its mandate, under the rule of law, however unacceptable their decisions may be, for it is only through such that a democratic regime can ever survive. This means that in any decision by a competent court, people can agree or disagree, depending on his or her beliefs, but it is the rule of law that is supreme, otherwise, our institutions will collapse. Democracy can only work in this way. Institutions, i.e. SC, need to be respected, otherwise, all of us will be judges – that’s anarchy! Unless there’s no clear evidence that merits the judgment that the decision rendered is biased, then the law must be upheld, however harsh.

Our site:



March 31st, 2008 at 4:49 pm

As can be expected of the pinoy way.matters are judged according that what is favorabe or not or what is convient or not.
I think what is really killing Philippine society is the “curiosity” to know things.
I can’t imagine any Presedency that can be manipulated by the legislative.
I can’t imagine a Presendency to be lesser then the 2 other branches if they are supposed to be equals.
This is nothing but a fight of the SEnate asserting it’s authority over the Presendency. It’s nothing but a “power struggle”
Obviously, those behind this power struggle have planted the thought that Executive previlage is being used to cover-up a crime if a crime has really been commited.
After the endless circus in the Senate. Can anyone really say that there has been a crime?
Can any of those so called “star witness” even substanciate all thir fantastic allegations?
Is there a paper trail really leading to the Presedency?
Executive previlage is a Constitutional gurantee to defend the Presedency from “hostile” political attackes such as is the case now.
If the despearate senators can’t even prove anything w/ all their recklesness. Then why should Executive previlage be sacrificed.
Those insisting that a crime has been commited must prove it first.
The burden of proof is always in the accuser.
Is it not a Universal norm that any person is innocent until proven guilty?
Above all there is no crime in the world that can hide behind the law that it will not be discovered sooner or later.
lacson has tried to hard to prove the crime w/ his incredible witnesses but has always failed.



April 4th, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Philippine Democracy;

Going over your website I found a very interesting post by Hadji Balahadja, Faculty, Ateneo de Davao University, in part which says:

“Liberal democracy, while theoretically promoting formal equality under the law, does not promote equal social power, so that the already powerful gain all the more power, because they have the economic and intellectual means and social connections to use the law to their own advantage.

Liberal democracy in the Philippines amounts to “elite politics:” the participation of and advantage to the economically wealthy and socially prominent families and individuals or their media allies.

In this dysfunctional liberal democratic dispensation, we now see laid bare before our eyes the ascendancy of arrogant and manipulative media at the service of vested interests.

We watch with horror at how prone traditional politicians are to ally with anti-democratic elements of the Marxist-Leninist extreme Left and the fascist extreme Right, for their own selfish agenda, at the cost of the lives and the bodily integrity of our soldiers, police officers, and patriotic public officials and ordinary citizens,

We grieve at the breakdown of our basic securities as a nation, i.e. defense, internal security, food, water, energy, and the environment.

We gaze with alarm at the decline in livelihood, education, health, security, peace and order, the increase of poverty in absolute terms, the sense of hopelessness of many of our people, after two People Power uprisings rendered useless by the nefarious ways of traditional politicians acting within the framework of liberal democracy.

It is indeed time for change. It is time for change to a society in which formal equality under the law is made life-giving by promotion of real equality in social power, so that all citizens can participate on equal terms in the burdens, benefits and governance of societal life.

It is time for a society with sufficient participation in if not control of governance by the majority of our nation, composed of the working masses of farmers, fisherfolk, industrial labor, small businesspersons and professionals, and ministers of the faith communities.

It is time for a society ably defended and nurtured by the pillars of democracy; democratic political and civic organizations and social movements, the Christian Churches, the Muslim community, the military, the police, academe, business, and responsible media.

It is time for a society whose leaders and citizens effectively safeguard and promote, with their lives, their honor, and their intellectual endowments and material possessions, our basic securities as a nation, i.e. defense, internal security, food, water, energy, environment.

I can only say “Amen”.

I would have totally avoided PCIJ website upon finding this site, but unfortunately, the Philippine Democracy website is not as interactive as the PCIJ and I have not seen as yet any contrary discussions on the main articles posted on the website by ordinary people it claims it would like to empower!!!

Until then, more power to PCIJ…


Too Bad for Madoff, He Is Not A Filipino « myepinOy’s bLOG

July 1st, 2009 at 8:42 pm

[…] bad for Mr. Madoff, his sons are not Filipinos whose names are Romulo Neri and Joc joc Bolante. If they are, even if they know or even if their father Madoff confessed to […]

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