Monday, July 11, 2005

People Power Constitutional, Lawyers’ Group Says

The Committee for the Defense of Lawyers (CODAL) July 8 said it finds without legal and constitutional basis the threats by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo against mass actions calling for her to step down.

BY BULATLAT

The Committee for the Defense of Lawyers (CODAL) said July 9 it finds without legal and constitutional basis the threats by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo against massactions calling for her to step down.

Lawyer Neri Javier Colmenares, CODAL spokesperson, said that “Not only is thisassertion supported by the Constitutional recognition that ‘sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them’” but the Supreme Court has declared so in the case of Estrada vs Arroyo, the very case used by President Arroyo to legitimize her government. Colmenares cited the Supreme Court ruling of March 2, 2001 that what took place at EDSA from Jan. 16 to 20, 2001 was not a revolution but the peaceful expression of popular will.

“The operative fact which enabled Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to assume the presidency was the fact that there was a crisis, nay a vacuum, in the executive leadership which made the government rife for seizure by lawless elements,” the Supreme Court said. The camp of former President Joseph Estrada, who was ousted through a popular uprising during that period, had challenged the legality of Arroyo’s assumption of the presidency, saying she had assumed power by unconstitutional means.

Last week, however, Malacañang spokespersons branded calls for Arroyo’s resignation or ouster as “unconstitutional.” They have called on the people to follow the rule of law and not resort to “extra-constitutional” alternatives.

CODAL asserts that the call of former President Cory Aquino and others for President Arroyo to step down cannot be deemed a “threat to democratic principles and constitutional foundations,” as claimed by Mrs. Arroyo. This demand is the exercise of a legitimate right and not an extra-constitutional act, the lawyers’ group argues.

“The people should not be threatened by President Arroyo's intimidation. A government that has brazenly violated the Constitution's bill of rights, its provisions on taxation and deployment of foreign troops has no moral authority to lecture the people on the need to abide by the Constitution", Colmenares added.

CODAL also said that National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Reynaldo Wycoco's failure to investigate those who may have committed election offenses in the “Hello Garci'” tape is a dereliction of his duty as NBI director and he, like the President, may be tried for violating Art. 208 of the Revised Penal Code for “tolerating the commission of offenses.”

CODAL further believes that the proposal of former President Fidel Ramos for a charter change does not address the charge that the President violated the country’s penal laws and the 1987 Constitution. The lawyers’ group is calling on the President and her Cabinet to step down and for the institution of “comprehensive and lasting social reforms” under a framework which “ensures the people’s effective participation in governance.”

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