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MANILA, Philippines - Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Monday “advised” the camp of former President, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to strengthen their weak petition by focusing on the jurisdiction of a trial court and the constitutional guarantee to due process.
The lawyer senator, a former judge and constitutional law expert, also gave them unsolicited advice: don’t hammer on the legality of the DOJ-Comelec joint panel investigating election fraud. Whether or not this special committee is unconstitutional, “is a no-brainer,” said the senator, responding to reporters’ questions.
“It is constitutional. Number one: the Constitution provides that the Comelec is an independent agency. Number two, in the landmark case of Macalintal v. Comelec, the Supreme Court itself said the meaning of the phrase ‘the Comelec shall be an independent….’ means that it shall be independent of both the Congress and the Supreme Court,” she explained.
She said neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has supervisory authority over the Comelec, and “therefore we should leave the Comelec alone to discharge as it sees fit its main function which is to ensure free, orderly, and honest elections.
“So if the Comelec decides to go into a joint partnership with the DOJ in the trial and prosecution of electoral cases, that is well within its mandate,” Santiago explained.
She predicted that if the Arroyo camp presents its argument before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of the joint panel and prays for the eventual nullity of the arrest warrant issued against the former chief executive, the petition filed on Monday assailing the joint panel “will die a natural death.”
Pasay RTC jurisdiction assailable
Santiago said, it is better if the Arroyos assail the jurisdiction of the Pasay City trial court which issued the arrest order, on the ground that it should be the Sandiganbayan that has jurisdiction because Rep. Arroyo is a member of the House of Representatives and the law provides that all anti-graft cases against public officials must be filed before the Sandiganbayan.
“That should be the better ground, I humbly submit in my opinion,” she said. Santiago thinks the petition could be made stronger if they invoke the constitutional provision that no person should be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law.
“They will then have to show that the issuance of a warrant was too hasty so as to violate due process,” she said. “Can it be possible that a task force charged only with the prosecution and investigation of cases should have taken no action until three days after the justice secretary refused to obey the Supreme Court? We can see from the timeline alone that there appears to be a movement in bad faith on the part of the administration to prevent Rep. Arroyo from leaving the country at all. They could have filed that case long before or long after, but why file right after the Supreme Court has ruled that her right to travel must be respected?” she asked.
So, she said, “the better argument is: there is no due process of law and there is inherent bad faith in the timing of the filing of the case in the RTC and the consequent issuance of the warrant of arrest; and that there is political persecution.” “Due process of law means you notify the accused what she is accused of, you give her full notice of what is supposed to be lodged against her, what is the evidence if possible, and then give her a full period of time to submit her counter-evidence,” she explained.