(Privilege Speech of Minority Leader EDCEL C. LAGMAN on 21 March 2011)
The impeachment proceedings against the respondent Ombudsman have increasingly degenerated into an inordinately partisan enterprise.
While it is conceded that impeachment is generally political in character, nonetheless it is impressed with a quasi-judicial nature, for which reason the immutable tenets of due process should be accorded to both the complainants and the respondent.
The partisan alacrity to doom the Ombudsman was started by the President himself when he unabashedly and publicly rallied the members of his party to impeach the Ombudsman – targeting the Ombudsman as public enemy number one, who is not even charged with graft and corruption, but with contrived sins of omission.
The President imprinted his own logo on the impeachment proceedings unmindful that under the Constitution he has no role or participation whatsoever in impeachments.
While the House of Representatives acts as prosecutor and the Senate sits as the impeachment court, and the Supreme Court can, in proper cases, exercise judicial review, the President is shut out of the proceedings, except when he is the respondent himself.
Under Section 19 of Article VII, the President is even prohibited from granting pardons in impeachment cases.
After the President opened the floodgates for the impeachment of the Ombudsman, the partisan inundation intensified.
It reached a chilling level with the circulation last weekend of the following text message:
“Frm Cong. Abaya – Favor kindly disseminate to all reps – LP and non-LPs. This shud b made clear to all. Those who will vote no or absent/abstain on impeachment will get 0 as in zero. At least walang sisihan that there was no forewarning. Thank you.”
The unmistakable import of this text message is crystal clear:
1. The message purportedly came from “Cong. Abaya” in reference to our distinguished colleague, Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, the Chairman of the powerful Committee on Appropriations.
2. There will be no funding releases to any Member of the House who votes against the impeachment or abstains or is absent.
3. The non-release is “0 as in zero.”
4. It is not even a “fair warning” but a “forewarning” as in “beware, you know the adverse consequences.”
Aside from being the apex of partisanship which is unparalleled in the annals of Congress, this “forewarning” demeans Members of this House as salivating mercenaries who would trade their judicious discretion and conscientious conviction for SAROs and NCAs.
The “forewarning” desecrates democracy in a deliberative assembly and reduces our debates into haggling bouts in the marketplace.
The “forewarning” insults the integrity of the Members of this August Chamber and goads them to dance like unthinking puppets to the orchestrating baton of the President.
This is also blatant bribery! This is a crime!
Honorable Colleagues, I am certain we are not taking lying down this subversion of our independence and integrity.
Let us rise as one to denounce this transgression and protect the supremacy and freedom of our hallowed Institution whose Members are the duly-elected Representatives of the sovereign people.
Let us vote on the Articles of Impeachment with an open and fair mind. Let us be extremely judicious. Let us resist outside dictations, and follow only the well-meaning dictates of our respective consciences.
Of course, expectedly, the Honorable Abaya has disavowed authorship of the threatening text message. I believe him. He cannot do this to his colleagues on his own. His name and position were used with aggravating premeditation. The Office of the President has not even categorically disclaimed privity to such damning message.
The ominous text was sent purposely to deliver a coercive message. It has boomeranged.
Fund releases are not for the personal benefit of Members of the House. They are for the benefit of their constituencies. Our constituents should not be deprived or punished for the votes we cast.
Due to the negative publicity the text has generated, Malacañang belatedly announced that the PDAF will be released, irrespective of one’s vote, which should be the case. But the damage has been done and the fear it was designed to create has taken its toll.
I ask the leadership of the House of Representatives to assure a full-blown debate on the Report of the Committee on Justice and the proposed Articles of Impeachment, not only to afford fair and thorough deliberation but to dispel any suspicion that we have been cowed to subservience by any threat or promise of gold.
I also ask the leadership to immediately cause the investigation of this latest assault against our Institution. More than the impeachment proceedings, the preservation and protection of the independence and integrity of our Chamber must be upheld and prioritized.
The investigation must be undertaken by a Committee of the Whole because the entire Membership was maligned and threatened.
Pending the results of the investigation, the consideration of the Report of the Committee on Justice must be suspended.
Anyway, the Plenary has sixty (60) session days from the submission last Tuesday, March 15, 2011, of the Committee Report and the accompanying Articles of Impeachment to consider, deliberate and dispose of the same (paragraph 2 of Section 8, Rule III of the House Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings). And according to the Senate, it can only take up the impeachment case, if ever referred to it, only by May when the sessions resume after the Lenten break.
Our integrity and independence have been impeached even before we could even act on the impeachment of the Ombudsman. Silence and inaction, even more so subservience, are shameful epitaphs for this Congress of the People.
delivered by REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN on 08 March 2011)
March is the month we celebrate worldwide Women and Womanhood. The centenary of International Women’s Day falls on March 8 this year. It is only fitting that today, March 08, 2011, we begin the sponsorship and eventual plenary debates on the reproductive health bill – a measure that will help safeguard the future of millions of Filipino women and their families and will have a host of positive multiplier effects on the health of women and children, and enable sustainable human development for our country and people.
This is the third time in as many Congresses that I have stood before this August Chamber to deliver my sponsorship message on the RH bill. I am confident that the saying, “third time’s the charm”, will abide with us.
The 15th Congress will be remembered as the Congress that passed the RH bill.
The country needs an RH law because:
First, it will protect and promote the following basic rights:
(a) It will afford parents the opportunity to exercise their right to freely and responsibly plan the number and spacing of their children as enshrined in the Declaration of Tehran to which the Philippines was a signatory almost 42 years ago. The RH bill is rights-based, and central to the measure is freedom of informed choice. Consistent with freedom of choice, this bill has no specific demographic targets. It is not a population control measure. The moderation or deceleration of population growth is consequential to the promotion of reproductive health and sustainable human development.
The bill mandates the access to all forms of family planning, both natural and modern, by women and couples, who are voluntary acceptors as long as they are legal and medically-safe, and truly effective.
It is important to underscore that neither the Church nor the State has the right to dictate on the faithful or citizens which form of family planning they should use. That choice primarily and ultimately belongs to the couple, but most especially to women who bear the brunt of pregnancy, childbirth and child care.
(b) It will enhance the right to health as it improves maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition, and reduces maternal, infant and child mortality.
With all the talk about sex and religion that unfortunately dominates discussions about RH, people tend to overlook the fact that notwithstanding its positive impact on population and development, the bill is also a health measure.
The death of 500,000 women worldwide annually due to complications related to high risk pregnancies which could be prevented by access to effective family planning, and lack or absence of skilled attendance at childbirth is both an aberration and a gross social injustice.
Multiparity or having many children is positively associated with maternal mortality because with each additional pregnancy, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes progressively increases.
Effective contraception leads to better spacing of pregnancies, helps women avoid unwanted pregnancies, reduces the chances of malnutrition for mothers and therefore contributes to their overall well-being.
(c) We need an RH law to effectuate the people’s right to sustainable human development.
It is beyond debate that an exploding population impacts negatively on all indicators of human development like education, health, employment, housing, food security and the environment.
Development experts affirm that population and development are inextricably linked. The Asian Development Bank, in a 2004 review entitled “Poverty in the Philippines: Income, Assets, and Access,” listed an expanding population as one of the major causes of poverty in the country.
Local economists have also declared that there is greater incidence of poverty in larger families and that large family size is a significant factor in perpetuating poverty across generations. (Orbeta and Pernia)
The annual UN Human Development Reports also show that countries with higher population growth invariably score lower in human development.
The Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world and placed 97th out of 169 countries in quality of life in the UNDP’s latest Human Development Report.
China, the world’s most populous country ranks 89th; India, which is on the heels of China, is 119th; and Pakistan and Bangladesh which rank 6th and 7th, respectively, in terms of population, are 125th and 129th in human development.
On the other hand, the top three countries in human development, Norway, Australia and New Zealand, all have extremely lean total populations and low population growth rates.
Second, an RH law will definitely help lower the incidence of abortion by preventing unplanned, mistimed and unwanted pregnancies – the very unintended pregnancies which are terminated through abortion principally by young, Catholic and married women who could not afford another child.
(a) There is an inverse relationship between contraception and abortion. Studies conducted by the Guttmacher Institute reveal that correct and regular use of contraceptives can reduce abortion rates by a staggering 85%. Truly, the RH bill is an anti-abortion measure.
(b) A pregnancy that is planned and wanted will not be aborted. It is therefore only logical to conclude that the more women can avoid unintended and mistimed pregnancies through effective family planning, the less the incidence of abortion will be.
(c) If the incidence of abortion is considerably diminished by appropriate, legal and effective contraception, it stands to reason that there is no justification for the legalization of abortion. The RH bill will not lead to the legalization of abortion.
Third, an RH law enhances the ability of the Philippines to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose common denominator is reproductive health and family planning.
Virtually all the MDGs, but especially the goals which pledge elimination of gender-based discrimination; decrease in infant deaths; safe motherhood; and the prevention of the spread of HIV and AIDS, are closely related to reproductive health and family planning.
Fourth, an RH law will buttress the country’s anti-poverty agenda. The authors of the RH bill do not claim that it is the panacea to underdevelopment or a universal remedy to poverty. It is not a magic pill.
However, I would like to emphasize that without a clear policy on RH, government’s anti-poverty strategies will continue to be undermined by a ballooning population as an inordinately huge population growth rate aggravates existing poverty.
The Philippines’ very own Rafael Salas, the first Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund emphasized that there are “crucial links between population and development and (there is) need to take population factors into account in development plans.”
Fifth, the promotion of reproductive health is cost effective. It is much cheaper than the mega projects of government which have much lesser beneficiaries and riddled with corruption. The improvement of maternal and infant health and reduction of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity also generates multi-billion savings for the government in terms of reduced expenses for maternal and infant medical care which could be channeled to education and other basic services.
Research by Likhaan and the Guttmacher Institute shows that government allocates a minimum of P5.5 billion in healthcare costs each year for the management of unintended pregnancies and their complications.
This kind of health management is not a cost-effective public health spending because only P2.0 to P3.5 billion annually is needed to fund a comprehensive range of voluntary family planning services for the entire country according to the same study.
Investing in family planning services would then mean savings of several billion pesos which can be used for other badly needed social services.
The UNICEF way back in 1992 asserted that “family planning could bring more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single technology now available to the human race.”
Sixth, the RH bill goes beyond family planning. RH is all- encompassing. Aside from family planning information and services, its expansive coverage includes:
Maternal, infant and child health and nutrition, including breastfeeding;
Prohibition of abortion and management of abortion complications;
Adolescent and youth reproductive health and sexuality education;
Prevention and management of sexually transmittable infections (STIs), like HIV-AIDS;
Elimination of violence against women;
Treatment of breast and reproductive tract cancers and other gynecological conditions and disorders including infertility and sexual dysfunction in both men and women; and
Male responsibility and participation in reproductive health;
Seventh, the RH bill is constitutional. It maintains unconditional fealty to Section 12 of Article II on State Policies which pertinently provides: “It (the State) shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”
The overriding purpose of this provision is to preempt the Congress and the Supreme Court from legalizing abortion.
House Bill No. 4244 is indubitably against abortion. It unequivocally provides that “nothing in this Act changes the law against abortion”.
The genesis of the aforequoted constitutional provision shows that the proposal to include in the Bill of Rights that the “right to life extends to the fertilized ovum” was rejected by the Constitutional Commission of 1987. The phrase “fertilized ovum” was never constitutionalized, just like the phrase from “the moment of conception” because the Commissioners were unable to determine when the precise moment of conception is.
Contraceptives are not banned by the Constitution. This is so because contraceptives like pills, injectables, condoms and IUDs are not abortifacients.
The principal purposes of contraceptives are: (1) to prevent ovulation, in which case there is no egg to be fertilized and no fetus to abort; and (2) to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg, in which case there is no fertilization and no fetus is formed.
Medical authorities define abortion as “termination of pregnancy after implantation and before the conceptus has become independently viable.” [International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO)]
Legal jurisprudence defines abortion as “the expulsion of the foetus before it has acquired the power of sustaining an independent life.” [Philippine Legal Encyclopedia]
Clearly, there can be no abortion before the onset of pregnancy or conception when the blastocyst is implanted in the uterine lining or the woman’s womb.
A couple or a woman who uses contraceptives or a physician who prescribes contraceptives cannot be accused of the crime of abortion because contraceptives do not expel or detach the fetus from a pregnant woman’s womb. Contraceptives prevent conception or pregnancy but do not pre-terminate pregnancy. Verily, contraceptives are contra-conception.
The reason why the issue of RH is almost always linked exclusively with family planning – especially the use of condoms, pills and IUDs – is because the Catholic hierarchy, which is the main critic of the bill, is not against the elimination of violence against women or the treatment of breast cancer or maternal and child health and nutrition and other elements of RH. It is only against making modern family planning methods available to women and couples and the teaching of sexuality and RH education to the youth.
Therefore, the most vocal critics of the bill conveniently want the issue to be limited to the so-called evils of modern contraception.
Verily, reproductive health transcends family planning as the full range of RH attests.
We must be unwavering in the campaign to protect and promote every Filipino’s right to reproductive health, and the right of every woman over her own body and be liberated from unremitting pregnancies.
We must not allow religious intolerance to consign mothers into early death because family planning services are not available to them so they could avoid high risk pregnancies.
We will not allow antediluvian precepts to doom a progressive measure which promotes choice, not compulsion or even reward.
We must all remember that the Catholic hierarchy’s stance against modern contraceptives is not categorized as an “infallible dogma”.
Immediately after the release in 1968 of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was based on a minority report of the Papal Birth Control Commission and contrary to the majority position permissive of contraceptive use, Monsignor Fernando Lambrouschini, the then official spokesman for the Vatican, announced: “attentive reading of the encyclical Humanae Vitae does not suggest the theological note of infallibility… It is not infallible.”
Honorable colleagues, I earnestly entreat you to join and help us pass the RH bill so that every Filipino child will be born wanted and the miracle of life will not mean death for 11 Filipino mothers daily.
Help us enact the RH bill so that we can give premium to life and make every woman and child truly count.
EXPLANATION OF ABSTENTION OF MINORITY LEADER EDCEL C. LAGMAN ON THE MOTIONS FINDING PROBABLE CAUSE TO IMPEACH THE OMBUDSMAN
I abstain for the following reasons:
1) No sufficient time has been accorded to the Members of the Committee to assess the voluminous evidence (approximately 2 feet in height) submitted by the complainants as well as the two answers of the respondent Ombudsman, all of which were given to the Members of the Committee only late yesterday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the voting. The limited time effectively deterred the Members from determining the facts and circumstances that would engender a well-founded belief of the existence of probable culpability of the Ombudsman.
2) The decision of the Committee on Justice last week which found “sufficient grounds for impeachment” was premature and precipitate without the answer of the Ombudsman considering that at that time the Ombudsman had a pending motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court, and the right of a litigant to file a motion for reconsideration and wait for its resolution are integral to due process.
3) After the Committee granted the Ombudsman the opportunity to file her answer, whether as a responsive pleading or part of her evidence, until Friday last week, and after the Ombudsman interposed her answers within the new deadline and the Committee admitted said answers, the process had been set back in time and the procedural steps outlined in Sections 5 and 6 of Rule III should have been followed in order to observe due process.
4) The Committee failed to await the final decision of the Supreme Court on the petition of the Ombudsman, which decision or resolution denying the Ombudsman's motion for reconsideration was rendered shortly before the Committee made a vote on probable cause. Verily, the imprudent haste of the Committee in resuming the impeachment proceedings pending final adjudication of the High Court thwarted due process since the Ombudsman was denied the full opportunity of advocating her defenses because she had precarious constraints of not prejudicing her motion for reconsideration.
(Statement of Minority Leader Edcel C. Lagman at the Resumption
of the Impeachment Proceedings Against the Ombudsman on 08 March 2011)
The Supreme Court in Estrada vs. Desierto (G.R. Nos. 146710-15, 08 March 2001) admitted that the “exact nature of an impeachment proceeding is debatable”. Many authorities, however, assert that it is sui generis, a class by itself.
But it is most errant to claim that an impeachment proceeding is simply a “political exercise” or a purely “partisan enterprise”. It is not.
While impeachment is not a judicial process in the nature of a court litigation, it is akin to a prosecutorial and adjudicatory proceeding. It is for this reason that the Rules of Procedure in impeachment proceedings of the House of Representatives under Section 16 of Rule VII thereof provides that “The Rules of Criminal Procedure under the Rules of Court shall, as far as practicable, apply to impeachment proceedings before the House.”
Even judicial terminologies and parlance pervade the impeachment rules, like “verified complaint”, “finding a probable cause”, “notice to respondent and time to plead”, “submission of evidences and memoranda”, “conduct a hearing”, “period of examination and cross-examination”, “power to issue compulsory processes”, and “The House of Representatives shall act as the sole prosecutor at the trial in the Senate”.
Moreover, the Committee is tasked to find probable culpability, if any, on the part of the respondent. Determining “probable culpability” is not simply political in nature. It partakes of an adjudicatory process.
I raise these points in order to impress on the leadership and membership of the Committee on Justice not to jettison the immutable tenet of due process. The critical imperativeness of due process must not be sacrificed to imprudent haste or partisan importuning. Impeachment of a respondent at all costs is not the raison d'êtrefor redeeming a campaign promise.
The call for the observance of due process and rules of impeachment is regardless of the final outcome of the proceeding as I do not speak for the Ombudsman. It is call to fealty to the Constitution and adherence to genuine fair play.
Consider the following:
1. It was only yesterday afternoon when Members of the Committee on Justice received the voluminous evidentiary submissions of the complainants, measuring approximately two feet in height. Incidentally, it was also only yesterday when Members were given copies of the two answers of the Ombudsman.
We must perforce give justice to the complainants for such “herculean” preparations, but Members of the Committee cannot read and assess all of these pieces of evidence just overnight and be expected to vote on probable cause the following morning, this morning.
While some quarters are attacking some members of the Supreme Court for voting for the issuance of the status quoante order without the ample opportunity of reading the petition of the Ombudsman, are we going to heedlessly follow suit, granting that the accusations against the Justices are true.
2. The established precedent in impeachment proceedings in the previous Congresses is the creation by the Committee on Justice of two panels of discussants or speakers – one for the endorsers or proponents for the impeachment and another for the oppositors.
This practice was initiated and subsequently followed to expedite the proceedings without sacrificing due process and in order for the contending sides to explain, ventilate and summarize their respective positions, and afford the Members of the Committee to fully assess the issues before casting their respective votes.
The contending panels were created to determine “sufficiency in substance” of the complaint. With more reason the panels should be activated to determine a higher level of sufficiency – sufficient grounds for impeachment.
3. Are we going to abandon this beneficent precedent and vote now with inordinate alacrity?
4. The ascertainment of probable cause in a criminal proceeding should not be any different from assuring the existence of probable cause in an impeachment proceeding. As provided by our Rules of Impeachment “The Rules of Criminal Procedure under the Rules of Court shall as far as practicable apply to impeachment proceedings before the House.” Indeed, it is practicable.
In Philippine jurisprudence, “probable cause has been uniformly defined as such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonable, discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed” by the accused or the respondent (Co vs. Lansanas, G.R. No. 150877, 04 May 2006).
“Probable cause is defined as such facts and circumstances that will engender a well founded belief that a crime has been committed and that the respondent is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial.” (San Miguel Corporation vs. Puzon, Jr., G.R. No. 167567, 22 September 2010).
Probable cause “requires more than a bare suspicion”. (Illusorio vs. Illusorio, G.R. No. 171659, 13 December 2007).
Verily, the ascertainment of the existence of such facts and circumstances determinative of probable cause demands a conscientious and deliberate assessment, which standard could be negated by imprudent haste.
5. The respondent seasonably filed her answers to the two complaints within the new deadline imposed by the Committee. What are the procedural steps required under the rules subsequent to the respondent’s filing of her answers? Whether the answers are considered responsive pleadings or part of the Ombudsman’s evidence, effectively the admission of the answers set back in time the process and makes the earlier findings of “sufficient grounds” premature and precipitate.
a) Under Section 5 of Article III on “Finding a Probable Cause”, it is provided that “within three (3) days from receipt of the answer, the complainant may file a reply, serving a copy thereof to the respondent who may file a rejoinder within three (3) days from receipt of the reply, serving a copy thereof the other complainant.
b) The same Section provides “together with their pleadings, the parties shall file their affidavits or counter-affidavits, as the case may be, with their documentary evidence”.
c) Likewise, the same section provides that “notwithstanding all of the foregoing, failure of any respondent to file an answer will not preclude him/her from presenting evidence in support of his/her defenses.”
d) Only after compliance with the foregoing procedures, will it be seasonable for the Committee to “determine whether the complaint alleges sufficient grounds for impeachment.” (Section 6, Rule III)
e) Section 6 also provides that “if the Committee finds that sufficient grounds for impeachment exist, the Committee shall conduct a hearing.”
f) For purposes of the hearing, “the Committee through the Chairperson, may limit the period of examination and cross-examination.”
6) It is usually said that at the end of the day, impeachment proceedings are a veritable numbers game. But would it not be much better if these are a confluence of superiority of numbers and ascendancy of reason and arguments which obtained in the past?
of the Lakas Kampi CMD during the National Council Meeting on 24 February 2011 at the Crowne Plaza Galleria)
Our National Council Meeting today indeed has multiple significance.
First, it is a concrete affirmation that Lakas Kampi Christian Muslim Democrats Party is vibrant, viable and credible. Like love and politics, it is here to stay – to survive, grow, challenge and prevail.
Our party has the enduring character of plurality and inclusiveness. It makes collective decisions and exhaustive consultations. Its strength and growth do not depend on a single personality. Every member is an anchor and propeller of our party.
Our party’s tradition of excellence and legacy of achievements, particularly exemplified by the administration of President Arroyo, had established solid foundations and enshrined enabling essentials for our Republic, which are indubitable credentials acknowledged no less by impartial and reputable foreign and Filipino economists, and even by the Finance Secretary of the present administration.
Second, our assembly today underscores the truism that political parties are the hallmarks of a republican democracy, the guardians of representative governance.
Political parties are springboard for electoral mandate as they present to the electorate an agenda for action and development supported by their chosen candidates.
They are also the soundboard for popular consensus or dissent which political parties must hear, adhere and reckon with.
Our party has effectively discharged these functions – both as springboard and soundboard of popular will.
Third, the other signal significance of our assembly today is for us to realize the party’s role as the dominant opposition party, particularly in the Congress as its sizeable membership belongs to the House Minority.
With due deference to the alignment with the House Majority of some distinguished members of our party, I earnestly entreat them, if possible, to join cause with the Minority and bolster the opposition in quality, talent and numbers.
Although we still remain to be the dominant party at the local level, after we have unfortunately lost the Presidency and expectedly the Speakership, at the national plane we have been relegated to a minority status, not an enviable situation but an important role nonetheless.
The overriding role of the minority includes the following:
(1) It presents itself as the viable alternative to the administration as it espouses alternative policies and views which are more responsible and responsive than the flawed importuning of the majority.
(2) It works as a vigilant sentinel in scrutinizing the operations of the Executive and exercises oversight functions on the performance and accountability of Executive officials, particularly in the utilization of finances and implementation of laws and policies.
(3) It initiates legislation consistent with its legislative agenda, introduces perfecting amendments to administration measures and remains steadfast in opposing bills and policies which are repugnant to the constitution, violative of civil liberties and detrimental to public interest.
(4) It is the spokesman of the marginalized and disadvantaged sectors.
(5) In proper cases, as a constructive opposition party, it forges a national consensus with the majority or the administration.
The renowned French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville said “the majority not only makes the laws, but can break them as well”. It is for this reason that the minority exists and must flourish.