Press Release
September 16, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) has expressed concern that democracy in the country is very much imperiled with the Senate's investigative function emasculated by obstructionist acts of the executive branch, the presidency rendered ineffective over charges of illegitimacy and misuse of power and the judiciary hounded by allegations of improprieties.

With this horrible situation, he said it is not surprising that prominent lawyer Avelino Cruz, who once served as CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL and defense secretary of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, warned the Filipino people to be vigilant against any possible imposition of emergency rule.

On the occasion of the International Day of Democracy on September 15, Pimentel called attention to the urgency of a concerted action to prevent the hard-won rights and freedoms of Filipinos from being undermined and eroded.

He deplored that the efforts of the Senate to discharge its constitutional duty to check and inquire into the wrongdoing of officials in the executive branch has been thwarted by Malacañang by invoking executive privilege and other obstructionist methods.

"As members of the Senate, it is our duty to exercise powers that would make democracy work like a real vehicle to make life better for the people. We should exercise those powers fearlessly and only with the public good in mind," the minority leader said.

"I am, however, sorry to say that the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the claim of executive privilege by a government bureaucrat has, to my mind, figuratively rendered the Senate a eunuch."

With this adverse judicial ruling, Pimentel said the Senate should consider a serious response to the unbridled attempt to emasculate its investigative powers - a function that is an indispensable adjunct to its power to enact laws.

He stressed that before the Senate can make laws, it must have the power to access information from any source within the limits of the Constitution and the laws of the country.

Pimentel bewailed that there is so much corruption in government while extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances of political activists and dissenters continue to happen despite persistent denials by Malacañang, security and defense officials.

He also echoed the people's frustration over the festering problem Muslim and communist insurgencies while hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, both Muslims and non-Muslims are sacrificed needlessly on the issue of Moro separatism.

In a democracy, Pimentel said the courts of law must necessarily be independent. But he said it is a sad commentary of the state of the judiciary that recently, some justices of the Court of Appeals, the second highest court of the land, have been sanctioned for ethical misconduct.

However, he said it is reassuring that the Supreme Court did not hesitate to punish the erring justices of the appellate court.

Pimentel said it must be borne in mind that democracy limits the powers of the State even as it promotes the dignity of the people, upholds the fundamental rights of individuals and respects the human rights of all those who reside within its boundaries.

"And for democracy to be effective, it must provide the avenues for people - regardless of race, creed, gender and political persuasion - to be heard in the enactment of laws and the promulgation of policies of which they are the subject," he said.

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