Contact Details

Rm. N-411, House of Representatives, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
+63 2 931 5497, +63 2 931 5001 local 7370

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.

IMPEACHMENT NOT A PURELY PARTISAN ENTERPRISE

(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'être for 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 quo ante 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?

(Speech Delivered by REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN

after his election as National Chairperson

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.

Message

of the

Hon. EDCEL C. LAGMAN

Representative of the 1st District of Albay

PLCPD Chairperson for the House of Representatives and

House Minority Leader

House of Representatives, December 6, 2010

 

            I am not going to give you any more data than what has already been presented by the United Nations Resident Coordinator herself. However, I would like to emphasize some aspects that astound me personally.

           The United Nations’ report last December 1 should be a veritable wellspring of hope. Globally, the new number of reported cases of HIV infections and deaths has dropped by nearly 20 percent.

           It is therefore both ironic and tragic that the Philippines’ trajectory is towards the other direction. Our country’s HIV/AIDS statistics have increased by 30 percent!

           In October this year, 104 new cases of HIV Ab sero-positive were added to the ever growing list, reaching the total of 1,035 from January to October alone. Of this, 15 were classified as AIDS.

           In 2000, there was an average of one new case every three days.  Last year, that figure went up to two new cases each day. This year, the cases have gone up to four every single day. These figures are saying something. One new case of HIV a day is worrisome enough. Four is definitely alarming. It is not a question of what we are doing to prevent the spread of the disease but what we are not doing to prevent its proliferation.

           When the first case of HIV in the Philippines was reported in January 1984 up to September of last year, the total number cases of HIV Ab sero-positive has reached 7,490. Of this, only 5,729 were reported to the HIV and AIDS Registry. Most of the victims are male and in the prime of their lives at 25-34 years, and forty six percent come from the National Capital Region. Three hundred and eighteen were reported to have already died of AIDS or its complications.

           Indeed, HIV and AIDS are components of reproductive health but they cannot be treated as secondary issues. As in all the other components of RH, this should be dealt with utmost attention and care, and with precise steps. Just like maternal and infant death and morbidity, the HIV/AIDS problem in the Philippines is a public health concern.

           In 1998, the Congress enacted RA 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act to respond to the spread of the disease in the country. Twelve years have passed and we are confronted with a bigger problem – our disturbing data on HIV/AIDS is clearly leaning towards a possible epidemic. With this development, we must realize the urgent need to review the effectiveness of this law and to reverse the growing number of infections in the country.

           The establishment of the Philippine National AIDS Council nearly two decades ago has clearly defined what actions to take and which agencies must take the lead in ensuring universal access of infected persons to basic health care services; promoting and protecting the fundamental human rights of HIV/AIDS patients; educating the public regarding this deadly disease; and preventing the multiplication of people living with HIV/AIDS.

           The creation of several mechanisms such as the establishment of the HIV Surveillance System, development of modules and protocols incorporated in the school and DFA curricula and capacitating health care providers now seem inadequate with the rate of increase in HIV/AIDS infection our country is experiencing.

           The current available date may be frightening but this does not have to mean that contracting the disease is inevitable. Relevant information, proper education and a necessary amount of discipline and discretion are the basic keys.

           Experience in other countries has proven that once the cases begin to rise to the level of epidemic proportions, it will be very hard to contain. Although recent figures may indicate a grim future for the Philippines, Filipinos have the enviable reputation of being both resilient and determined when we set our hearts and minds to accomplishing something. HIV/AIDS may be a deadly disease but it is not unconquerable.

           What we must constantly keep in mind is that although sufficient funding is indispensable for the success of our anti-HIV/AIDS program, the program itself must certainly be anchored on value-based techniques that will help curb this deadly disease by changing behavior.

            We cannot win the battle against HIV/AIDS if we fail to particularly address and ultimately alleviate the discrimination and stigma directed towards people living with the disease and vulnerable groups like sex workers and members of the gay community.

            It is precisely stigma and discrimination that generate fears and myths and misconceptions on HIV/AIDS and may eventually lead to misinformation and attitudes of denial. The shame felt and prejudice experienced by victims may also hinder their access to basic information and essential prevention and treatment services. Stigma and discrimination therefore may interrupt or even put out of joint fundamental principles in public health services, like early diagnosis and timely and appropriate remedies and treatment.

            Legislators and legislation are central players in the fight against the spread of the disease and in combating the stigma and discrimination that often go hand in hand with HIV/AIDS. We must all do our share in battling this fatal and debilitating illness through responsive and responsible public policies.

            Too much is at stake for us not to take concrete action to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, a disease that does not only end lives but strips many of its victims of their dignity and leaves in its wake much despair, disability and death.

            Thank you very much and I hope that this activity will inspire us to strengthen our efforts in halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS in our country.

            Maraming salamat.

REQUIEM FOR THE CONGRESSIONAL

POWER OF APPROPRIATION

By:

REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN

Minority Leader, House of Representatives

                  

The Office of the President did not only propose the national budget through the National Expenditure Program (NEP). It also virtually appropriated the national budget through a rubberstamp majority in the Congress – both in this House and in the Senate.

           For the first time in Philippine legislative history after martial law, Malacañang has effectively transformed the Congress into a colossal subservient and faithful photocopying machine – reproducing the NEP in the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) almost in the entirety of the President’s proposal with minimal realignments but an exact total of P1.645 trillion as a reflected in the President’s original submission.

           I am informed that there is a categorical and persistent instruction from Malacañang to have the NEP untouched and undiminished, effectively subverting the power of the Congress, particularly this House, over the public purse as enshrined and mandated by the Constitution.

           As a result of Malacañang’s undue and omnipresent interference in the budget process, not a single centavo was cut from the original proposal of P1.645 trillion as if the Office of the President drafted a magnum opus of a national budget highlighted by a P21 billion Conditional Cash Transfer program and a P15 billion Public-Private Partnership hazy outlay, among other huge lump sums.

          Compare this to previous years where the Congress reduced the President’s budget by P400 million in 2010; P300 million in 2009; P300 million in 2008; and P200 million in 2007. For 2011, to reiterate, not a single centavo was cut.

          For 2011, the Congress (the House and the Senate collectively), realigned only P2.306 billion which much less than one percent of the 1.645 trillion budget.

         Compare this with the previous years when Congress truly exercised its plenary power of appropriation with the following realignments: P67.1 billion in 2010; P56.5 billion in 2009; P38.5 billion in 2008; and P20.5 billion in 2007.

What is worse is that even the meager realignments in the 2011 national budget were obviously errant and unwarranted. Consider again the following:

1. P750 million was slashed from the school building program which is already inadequate to respond to the huge classroom backlog. This amount was realigned to 5,000 additional teacher positions which should have been funded from the CCT since education is an allied program.

2. P200 million was reduced from the already small appropriation of P931 million for “family health and family planning”, thereby reducing this allocation to P731 million. It should be underscored that the bulk of the original outlay was not for the purchase of contraceptives.

3. And what happened to all of the proposed individual amendments of Members of the House who were told to submit their proposals to the Committee on Appropriations? Not a single significant amendment found fruition in the GAA, except the proposal of the Minority for the creation of a Congressional Oversight Committee on the CCT and the realignment of 2011 savings from the CCT to the Department of Health and the Department of Education, which unfortunately and improvidently were both effectively scuttled by the Senate.

We might as well have a requiem for the demise of the congressional power to appropriate public funds.