Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reperire veritatem – Finding The Truth

Argumentum contra factum non-valet ilatio. Arguing against facts is not a valid inference.

Reductio ad absurdum. Reduced to absurd or untenable conclusions.

As a Philosophy major and as a member of the Huntington Beach High (CA.), AB and Law debating teams of San Beda College (Philippines), I learned the above-mentioned Latin precepts as ways of winning arguments, thus in most cases leading to debate victories.

Indeed, if the facts support your argument, no amount of shouting or maneuvering would change the inevitable outcome of the case. In our judicial system, it should be expected that truth always prevails.

When Noynoy Aquino was asked to run for President after his mother’s death, the clamor was for somebody to step up to provide hope, humility, honor and honesty in governance. During the campaign, Noynoy was heard promising to the people that he would make use of all available resources of the Presidential Office to substantially minimize if not totally eradicate graft and corruption. Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap! When criticized for his performance as a legislator he said, “There are enough laws already made”.

He was elected overwhelmingly with that mandate, among others. The hope for a humble man running an honest government is finally here to bring honor to his people, his parents, and his country.

In an article published by the Asian Journal USA on June 18, 2010, page 18 entitled, “BENIGNO ‘NOYNOY’ AQUINO AND THE CORY CONSTITUTION” (http://www.scribd.com/doc/33530183/AJ-June-18-24-2010), I wrote about the Presidential Oath and what it would take to be an effective President by consecrating himself in defense and support of the Cory Constitution and in the execution of the laws which are more than “enough”.

As mandated by the Filipino people P-Noy is now taking the necessary steps to gather information and facts about the anomalies that occurred during the “previous administration” or specifically, the GMA tenure. This is admittedly in consonance with his executive and administrative powers. This is why the Department of Justice and all law enforcement agencies including the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the police and armed forces are under the President.

Gathering and determining the facts is necessary for the courts to interpret and apply laws as well as make wise and sound judgments. It is necessary for legislators to conduct investigations and search for the truth “in aid of legislation”.  It is likewise necessary for the President to have sufficient facts “in aid of an effective and efficient execution and enforcement of laws.”

Through Executive Order No. 1, P-Noy created the Truth Commission with data gathering and fact-finding duties regarding large scale graft and corruption during the previous administration.

President Diosdado Macapagal had his Presidential Anti-Graft Committee (PAGCOM); President Carlos Garcia, his Presidential Committee on Administrative Performance Efficiency (PCAPE); President Ramon Magsaysay, his Presidential Complaints and Action Committee (PCAC); and President Elpidio Quirino had his Integrity Board.

President Cory Aquino, of course, created the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) while President Joseph Estrada established the Saguisag Commission. President Marcos exercised dictatorial powers most of his tenure and was known to have used even torture in gathering information. President Gloria M. Arroyo is also accused of using similar tactics to elicit information.

Except for PCGG which still exists today, all the aforementioned bodies were ad hoc committees with limited terms of existence. The Truth Commission is like the latter.

My opinion is that P-Noy did not have to issue Executive Order No.1 in order to accomplish the objectives defined thereof. The Cory Constitution, Section 17 (1) Article VII, the Administrative Code of 1987 and other existing laws have provided him sufficient powers to go on a fact-finding and data gathering mission. In fact, the PCGG and the Department of Justice can independently assume such functions under the law.

But he did and the Supreme Court, led by a Chief Justice who was once the Presidential Chief of Staff and Acting Executive Secretary of the “previous administration” which is the subject of the fact-finding body, declared it “unconstitutional” because it is allegedly violative of the “equal protection clause”. It declares that the EO, by limiting the class to the “previous administration”, discriminates in favor of other past administrations. In fact, it proposes that it corrects the under inclusion by adding the letter “s” to become “previous administration(s).”

This is when I thought of the second Latin precept, reductio ad absurdum. If the proposition is followed, the Supreme Court is virtually telling P-Noy that for the EO to be constitutional, it should also investigate all previous administrations up to the time of President Emilio Aguinaldo – going back about 112 years. Considering that the prescriptive periods for many have lapsed and the likelihood that the truth has been buried with the potential suspects, persons of interest, and witnesses, plus the fact that resources are limited, it is indeed virtually impossible, untenable and ABSURD to comply, thus negating the reason for its being.

That indeed is reducing to absurdity all efforts to find the truth.

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