Tuesday, July 26, 2005

CODAL Relaunch Statement on GMA Ouster, Impeachment and Truth Commission

A Critical View of Impeachment and the Truth Commission
(22 July 2005

CODAL, hitherto known as the Committee for the Defense of Lawyers, was organized on April 30, 2005 and was borne out of the situation and in response to the killings and attacks against lawyers, judges and the legal profession as a whole as well as on civil liberties. In the light of recent political developments, CODAL believes that the current issues on the "Gloriagate" are legitimate concerns for lawyers as they involve possible violations of the Constitution and threaten the administration of justice.

CODAL concluded in a legal study that the acts of President Arroyo did not merely constitute a "lapse in judgment" but clearly and openly violated several laws and the Constitution and are in fact impeachable offenses. CODAL was one of the first organizations of professionals to ask her to step down.

In view of the misrepresentations that mass actions and people power are unconstitutional, destabilizing and against the "rule of law," CODAL categorically assured the people that the exercise of the people's right to demand for Arroyo to step down is not an "extraconstitutional" or "unconstitutional" act as sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. In fact and in law, their actions are but a legitimate and democratic exercise of their civil and political liberties.

Given all these, CODAL has come with a consensus to transform the organization and expand its concerns and aptly rename it as Counsels for the Defense of Liberties.

CODAL – the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties - will continue to pursue the call to oust GMA through resignation, not only because she has violated our laws and the Constitution, but also because she has lost the public trust to effectively govern because of serious charges of electoral fraud, corruption, puppetry, and human rights violations amidst a grave economic crisis.

However, since the impeachment process is taking its course, CODAL will critically participate and contribute its individual and collective knowledge, skills and training to help legally prove that GMA is liable for violation of the laws and the Constitution. This, despite the consciousness that it could be a trap to unduly diffuse the heat against her and the situation, confuse the people and provide a purely legalist way out for GMA to escape liability.

However, CODAL finds Vice President Noli de Castro unacceptable as successor as he will just continue the unpopular policies and programs of GMA and would only result in a mere "changing of the guards."

CODAL believes that it is the height of arrogance and self-righteousness to say that no one can replace GMA among 84 million Filipinos.

Instead, CODAL shall support the establishment of a transitional council that will represent and pursue the interests of the majority of our people. CODAL's unified view on the finer aspects on the composition, parameters, nature, duration, safeguards, legal, political and moral bases of said council is currently the subject of a legal study. But certainly, CODAL is against the prospects of the military and the opportunists taking advantage of the council or any
successor government.

What is important for CODAL is the next government's reform agenda – there must be a total overhaul of the electoral system, thoroughgoing elimination of corruption, sustained battle against impunity through serious prosecution of human rights violators and corrupt public
officials, and lasting reforms in the economy that will effectively respond to the challenges of poverty and globalization. The new government should also ensure the protection of lawyers and the legal profession from attacks.

CODAL believes that notwithstanding the impeachment process, the direct action of the people - as an exercise of their sovereign right and again in recognition that all government authority emanates from them and, therefore, a constitutionally-recognized inherent right that we have respected with or without the impeachment – remains a legitimate option.

CODAL further believes that the proposed Truth Commission to be created under and by GMA herself is not only unconstitutional as it finds absolutely no basis in the Constitution but is also suspect and infirm because its members and findings will not have the credibility and capacity to resolve the crisis. It is likely that serious violence will ensue if the decision of the Senate conflicts with that of the Truth Commission. Should the impeachment court convict her, Pres. Arroyo could hold on to power is she is acquitted by her Truth Commission, creating a dangerous constitutional crisis.

CODAL believes that, contrary to the spin doctors of GMA, the people are not tired of mass actions for no one should be tired of bringing and working for meaningful changes in our government and society. As the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties marks its re-launching,
and as it conducts symbolic and political actions complementary to legal moves, it vows to continue to work for the ouster of Mrs. Arroyo and unite on a principled basis with other forces, stand with the people in the defense of their rights and freedoms, and help in definition of a people's agenda that will attempt to bring meaningful changes in their lives. #

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