Blue Ribbon Committee
Much ado about nothing
By ElCid Benedicto
Such would likely be the case, in the end, of the Senate blue ribbon committee in taking great pains in securing a copy of the widely-publicized alleged digital files of pork barrel scam principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.
The committee headed by Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III is facing the difficult task of hurdling some legal obstacles in proceedings with its halted investigation into the pork scam, a matter which probably explains why he has been conspicuously silent until now as to when the panel could schedule a hearing to tackle the “digital files.”
There now exists some provisions in the law, under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which could probably prove to be a stumbling block in taking up anew the issue, add to the fact that the case has been formally turned into the hands of the anti-graft court by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Senators, in various interviews, appear to be now in conflicting positions as to whether they should still continue investigating the P10-billion pork barrel scam as there are those who admitted that it’s eating too much of their time, while others, came off to have some personal agenda – that of exonerating themselves from the mess after their names have been included by no less than Janet Lim Napoles in her so-called “list.”
More than the issue of the Senate probe practically opening a can of worms, was a possible legal consequence that could prove to be damaging to the institution.
Remember the time when the Senate’s Committee of the Whole was barred by the Supreme Court from proceeding with the call of some senators to replay the “Hello, Garci” takes in their hearings then?
Even before the SC handed down its decision, two senator-lawyers – Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Richard Gordon – issued a stern warning to their colleagues, coupled with a threat of bringing the issue to the High Court, if the tapes will be made public, as they were of the position that replaying an illegally-recorded conversation between two individuals would be tantamount to an invasion of privacy.
The Senate could stand to violate the Anti-Wiretapping Act as well, Gordon pointed out.
Santiago held the position that the right to privacy communications prevails over parliamentary immunity, which includes Senate proceedings.
At that time, the parallel investigation in the House of Representatives already saw the playing of the tapes but Santiago insisted that a duplication of such act would not justify the use of the wiretapped tapes in the Senate proceedings.
“It is the duty of the Senate to educate the House on pressing points of constitutional law,” she said.
Ironically though, the SC stopped the Senate from the playing of the tapes not because of the issues raised by the two senators but it has yet then to publish its rules of procedure governing inquiries in aid of legislation, “in clear derogation of the constitutional requirement.”
The SC even noted that the Senate had admitted in its pleadings and even during oral arguments that the Rules of Procedure had been published in newspapers of general circulation only in 1995 and 1996 and at that time of the said controversy, no similar effort had been made when they first opened their session in June 2007.
In the present case, however, regardless of whether the Senate had already published its Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries, they have to deal with the provisions of R.A. 10175 also known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
No less than Sen. Vicente Sotto III pointed it out in one of their plenary sessions recently, hours before the blue ribbon committee received from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Luy’s digital files the matter of legal consequences concerning the two-year-old law, particularly Section 4 on covered offenses.
It says that among those that could constitute an offense under the said law, include “access to the whole or any part of a computer system without right,” “intentional or reckless alteration, damaging, deletion or deterioration of computer data, electronic document or electronic data message, without right including the introduction or transmission of viruses”, “the use, production, sale, procurement, importation, distribution or otherwise making available, without right of,” “acquired without right or with intellectual property interests in it” and so on and so forth.
It should be worthy to note that the so-called Luy’s files were taken from the “files” of the company of Napoles and thus, were not his “property” or owned by him in the first place.
Luy apparently kept the files given his designation as Napoles’ “bookkeeper”, thus, even the laptop that he used to in safekeeping the information is said to be owned by the company he used to be connected with.
By this time, Guingona could very well be aware of these legal impediments which probably explains his “silence” on the issue of whether to continue or not with the halted investigation.
As if these were not enough, his legal team could also be looking at the issue of the legalities surrounding the probe on the documents coming from Napoles – her twin sworn affidavits and so-called “Napolist” – after the Ombudsman junked her plea to be considered as state witness in the case.
Any lawyer would say that such affidavits coming from Napoles, were not a tell-all but rather executed under some conditions imposed by her, that she was offering the information in exchange for some quid pro quo – that of becoming an immune witness or sparing her children from being made co-accused in the case.
It means that her statements cannot be taken against her and with her plea being junked after failing to meet the qualifications of those applying to become an immune witness, what will become now of the Senate probe?
By Ronald Roy
Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, unabashed self-proclaimed contender for the presidency in the 2016 elections, warned that keeping secret a new affidavit by Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged PDAF scam brains, would “empower her to manipulate public opinion one way or the other.” Perhaps. However, I don’t go along with his demand that she be summoned anew by the Blue Ribbon Committee for a scrutiny of her new statement.
There is no way the public will gain enlightenment from a senate investigation of the pork scam when the culprits alluded to by Napoles are the investigating senators themselves, not to mention those other guilty colleagues — bato bato sa langit ang tatamaan ay huwag magagalit — who quietly swivel in their cool armchairs expecting vindication in a process that they fully control. This asinine and expensive circus must stop. It serves no other purpose than to fuel more speculation, sow more confusion, and facilitate cover-up schemes.
Senators are not called “lawmakers” for nothing. By their every word and deed, and as their mandate would have it, they must exemplify sedulous adherence to the lofty requirements of respect for the Law, esteem for its institutions and processes, and fear of its rule. Accordingly, our senators should now terminate the subject investigation in order to allow the Ombudsman’s Office to exercise unimpeded control of the role it is ordained by the Constitution to discharge. No, there is no cogent reason for these upper-chamber legislators to distrust their own creation: the largely statutory criminal justice system.
Motorcyclists are the bane of patience. Being in total control of our streets, they freely violate traffic rules in pretty much the same way some politicians cavalierly breach the norms of delicadeza and rectitude. And can these motorcyclists quickly organize themselves into a mob at any accident site where one of them is involved! One should not find unfamiliar any of the following road situations.
Three years ago, I was driving on Edsa behind two buses that were a meter and a half apart. Suddenly, a motorcycle sped past me on my right side, surged ahead and, to my horror, raced through between the buses in a resolve to overtake them. As the buses moved toward each other, motorists and I following behind came to a screeching stop to see a gut-wrenching mishap that left the helmeted rider and his machine lying on the road in one gruesome twisted heap.
That was but one of numerous motorcycle misfortunes that had then been occurring at a very alarming rate, and the accidents have since increased without letup. Today, one wonders if authorities will ever buckle down to produce safety rules for the motoring public in general and the motorcyclists in particular, pedestrians and bystanders included.
For having been actually involved in two recent motorcycle accidents, I sometimes muse on the possibility that one day I will be a plaintiff or defendant in a reckless imprudence trial, notwithstanding the fact that in over 60 years behind the wheels, my extraordinarily diligent and defensive manner of driving has always seen me safely through — knock on wood. Hereunder are the two incidents.
As I remained at STOP position preparing to turn right to Hemady Street in Q.C., a motorcyclist drove up from behind and rested his machine between my right rear door and the embankment. From that position, he knew I would turn right since my signal lights were flashing. After the traffic light turned green, I proceeded to turn right along with the motorcycle. While I was executing the turn, the motorcycle suddenly swerved around in a split-second decision to change course.
I didn’t hit it, but its rider kicked my fender to avoid being struck. As a result of the force of the kick, he fell off his two-wheeler which scooted ahead and crashed against a concrete wall. He suffered a broken wrist and a badly damaged motorcycle. Luckily, patrol cops who witnessed the incident prevented a gathering mob of cussing motorcyclists from possibly lynching me. The hurt rider apologized for his reckless driving.
Then, another time when I was doing 30 kph on Aurora Boulevard, Manila, a motorcycle that had overtaken me suddenly crossed my path, and instinctively I swerved rightward to avoid hitting it. Unfortunately, I hit a cab. The culprit sped away and got lost in the traffic, and I gave the taxi driver a generous amount for slightly denting his fender.
This sort of road scourge cannot be totally eradicated. But authorities can control it by requiring motorcyclists to drive, at all times, directly behind a chosen vehicle, and allowing them to move therefrom only for the purpose of turning left or right to another street. Needless to state, strict enforcement and stiff penalties will produce eye-popping results, particularly in the dramatic reduction of riding-in-tandem killings. Hopefully.