President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s case is “THE TEST CASE” for the crime of electoral sabotage.
– Congressman Edcel Lagman, a close Arroyo ally
By Raïssa Robles
History repeats itself.
In 2001, former President Joseph Estrada was charged and arrested for the crime of economic plunder – a law that he voted “Yes” to while still a senator.
Last week, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was charged and arrested for the crime of electoral sabotage – a new election offense that she and her allies had inserted in Republic Act 9369.
This law is more widely known as the Election Automation Law. As the Philippine President then, Arroyo signed RA 9369 into law on January 23, 2007 – barely four months before the 2007 elections.
She is accused of masterminding the cheating during the 2007 polls, which allegedly benefited her 12 senatorial candidates particularly Juan Miguel Zubiri. If you recall, Zubiri was proclaimed a winning senator in 2007. But last August, he abruptly and tearfully vacated his Senate seat, saying he was the unwitting beneficiary of poll fraud.
Yesterday, I discussed in a piece entitled Gloria Arroyo’s downfall actually started in July how a long chain of events led to the arrest of Arroyo. This started with the claim of one of Arroyo’s staunchest political allies, Zaldy Ampatuan, that his warlord family cheated for Arroyo’s senatorial candidates in 2007.
Other witnesses have since surfaced and as a result, Arroyo is now the first high government official ever to be charged with the crime of electoral sabotage.
Arroyo’s case is “THE TEST CASE” for this capital crime, Arroyo’s long-time political ally Congressman Edcel Lagman confirmed to me in an interview.
I thought of asking Lagman because he was one of the lawmakers who had a direct hand in crafting the Election Automation Law where the crime of electoral sabotage was first introduced.
This offense was only inserted into RA 9369 before this was approved by Congress. In other words, it appeared to be like an afterthought since neither the House version nor the Senate version of the measure contained it.
How this crime got into our statute books
For a bill to become a law, the Constitution merely states that it has to pass “three readings on separate days” – a first reading, a second reading and a third and final reading. The Constitution also mandates Congress to adopt its own rules of proceedings for passing laws.
One of the rules that Congress has adopted is that – in case the House and the Senate pass different versions of the same measure on second reading, members from both chambers have to form a “Conference Committee” to finalize one version of the measure.
This is the version that is approved on third and final reading.
In the case of RA 9369, the new offense of electoral sabotage was only introduced during the Conference Committee whose members were the following:
Congressman Lagman, who was a “conferee”, confirmed this to me. He said he did not recall who had introduced the offense.
You can tell this was inserted by the Conference Committee because the House Journal containing the House deliberations of December 19, 2006 – when the measure was approved – printed the insertions in ALL CAPS. Lagman confirmed to me that those sections printed in ALL CAPS were insertions made at the Conference Committee level.
However, Lagman stressed:
The Conference Committee has the authority to introduce amendments. Once these are affirmed by the respective chambers, that becomes part of the legislation.
The House approved the Conference Committee version of RA 9369 in its entirety on December 19, 2006. The Senate approved the same on December 7, 2006.
President Arroyo enacted it into law on January 23, 2007. It took effect 15 days after publication in a newspaper of general circulation.
The crime of electoral sabotage is in Section 42 of this law.
Why was such a law introduced?
I asked Lagman whether it was correct to say that before RA 9369 was passed, there was no law to punish masterminds of cheating, but merely election officials who cheated for candidates and ballot snatchers.
Your premise is not quite correct. There are three kinds of criminal offenders:
- The principal who could be the mastermind;
- The principal by inducement; and
- The principal by direct participation
There is also the accomplice whose gravity or offense is lighter and is an accessory.
All of these were existing even before the crime of electoral sabotage was introduced.
In this particular case (of RA 9369), there was a new offense introduced into the penal system which is of a wider range.
I asked him – why was this electoral offense introduced?
Because most probably the legislators wanted to include massive poll cheating, instead of isolated poll cheating.
How Lagman feels about Arroyo being charged with a crime she had a hand in putting into law
I asked Lagman – How do you feel that Mrs Arroyo is being charged under a law that she herself signed?
The law is above anybody else.That’s not a right question. No one is above the law, irrespective of whether the law has been signed. What is important is we observe due process in the implementation of the law.
We are not questioning the definition of the offense. Or that there is such an offense as electoral sabotage in our penal system. What we are questioning is the process through which the former president was investigated and the recommendation made by the joint panel of the DOJ (Department of Justice) and Comelec (Commission on Elections). As well as the appreciation of evidence.
According to Comelec, the President did not submit a counter-affidavit. Of course she did not because she was challenging the constitutionality of the joint panel. Her lawyer said – the Comelec as an independent constitutional body cannot be merged with the DOJ which is a highly politicized agency.
At this point, I asked Congressman Lagman whether RA 9369 in fact authorized such a joint panel. And I read out to him Section 43 of this law which amended Section 265 of Batas Pambansa 881 – the mother election law. Section 43 said:
Prosecution. – The Commission shall, through its duly authorized legal officers, have the power, concurrent with the other prosecuting arms of the government, to conduct preliminary investigation of all election offenses punishable under this Code, and prosecute the same.
I asked him whether “concurrent with the other prosecuting arms of the government” could refer to the DOJ.
It now appears that there is concurrent jurisdiction between Comelec and DOJ in the investigation of electoral sabotage as an offense. But it is not a go-signal for the Comelec and the DOJ to be formed into a joint panel. That would be influencing the Comelec which is a separate and constitutional body. That is where the infirmity lies.
Where should Arroyo be tried – at a Regional Trial Court (RTC) or the Sandiganbayan?
Arroyo’s lawyer has insisted that Sandiganbayan should be the venue for the case, based on the amended Sandiganbayan law.
In contrast, the Comelec believes that BP 881, the mother election law, should prevail.
BP 881 states:
Section 268.Jurisdiction of courts. -The regional trial court shall have the exclusive original jurisdiction to try and decide any criminal action or proceedings for violation of this Code, except those relating to the offense of failure to register or failure to vote which shall be under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan or municipal trial courts. From the decision of the courts, appeal will lie as in other criminal cases.
I therefore asked Congressman Lagman which law should prevail when it comes to jurisdiction over the crime of electoral sabotage.
According to election laws, election offenses should be tried by the RTC in the area where the offense took place. But according to Sandiganbayan law (Republic Act 8249) – those with above salary grade 27 should be tried by the Sandiganbayan. Which should prevail?
That is now the question before the Supreme Court. Whether the jurisdiction is with the RTC or Sandiganbayan. We would have to refer the matter to the Supreme Court.
What all these mean, in short, is that Arroyo’s case will be precedent-setting, in the same manner that Estrada’s case broke new ground in plunder trials.
There’s one thing that could help the Supreme Court come to a decision.
Congress could disclose to the court the proceedings of the Conference Committee that finalized RA 9369. These proceedings are usually confidential but Congress might be persuaded to share it in order to shed light on how to interpret this very important law.
Gloria Arroyo’s downfall actually started in July
rafael l. vidal says
Somebody up there, who is all-knowing and just, probably intervenes and persuaded GMA or whoever, to insert the provisions for the high crime of electoral sabotage and the harsh penalty thereof, knowing fully that someday, it will do justice for the oppressed and the oppressor.
The recent developments involving the past administration remind me of the songs “KAY LUPIT NG KAPALARAN” by victor wood and “KATARUNGAN” by imelda papin.
God is good, HALLELUJAH, amen.
Peter Martin says
Hi Ms. Raissa,
Ang galing! Napaka detalye nang mga sinusulat mo…….
Pinipilit ngayon ni Lagman na baluktutin ang batas na sila ang may akda, sana pagdating nang araw, sila na naman ulit ang tamaan nang kanilang kabuktutan sa interpretasyon nang kanilang mga batas….
Gaya nang WLO, sila ang may pakana, pero sila ang unang ngumawa!
More power to you Ms. Raissa!
Buti pa ang mga babaing manunulat may mga “bayag”
Ang mga sikat na “macho” puro mga bahag ang buntot……
Di naman lahat ng lalaki ganoon.
Salamat sa pagbasa mo.
Good point Ms Raissa!
Just a thought, nagpapaka devils advocate. Hindi kaya planted ng Arroyo Admin ang batas na ito? Since landmark case siya, they can question the spirit, process of these laws sa SC thus delaying things.
Like the famous WLO, alam nila na gagamitin sa kanila ng current admin ito, pero they were confident na malalampasan nila ito. Sad nga lang at isa. Mga former prof ko ang kakampi nyasa SC.
One thing that bothers me the most, kung pinaglalaban ng Arroyo camp ang due process, bakit sila nag i-skip sa mga filling of motions? I mean bakit sa SC agad lahat? Kala ko ba no one is above the law? E ang daming backlog ng SC sya lagi na uuna? Asan na po ang fairness and justice para sa mga nakabinbing kaso?
I HEART THE WAY YOU PUT EVERYTHING IN WORDS…mga kagaya kung simple lng ang pag intindi ay na gegets agad…heheee….makamasa/very articulate/and galing thumbs up!!!.I ‘am puzzled what article would you write next after this arroyo moments fade/.
Kasi simple lang din akong tao.
At saka asawa ko – pinapabasa ko sa kanya bago ko i-upload. May mga beses na sasabihin niya sa akin – simplehan mo pa. Para kang abugado kung magsulat at mag-isip.
Don’t worry. Napakarami ko pang gusotng sulatin. :)
kaya ka siguro hindi kinuha ng inquirer because of your “astig” brand of journalism. Astig description ko kasi ang tapang ng dating ng mga post mo, i’m already an avid reader of your posts. i make it a point to check your website everyday and follow your tweets.
more power ma’am!
Jun Del Mundos says
Thanks for the informative articles that you always published; parang lawyer ka rin due to the knowledge you are writing about.
I am an OFW, we sacrificed a lot just for the family and loved ones. Tapos ang election results dayain lang, we better not to vote. Hindi na makatarungan.
Si GMA maraming mga ginawa na hindi mabuti sa Filipino people at sa Pilipinas.
More power to you.
Ipaglaban mo karapatan mong hindi madaya.
Jun Del Mundos says
We OFW had suffered a lot too. Being away from our loved onces sacrificing for the benefit of our family, tapos ang election ay dayain lang. We better not to vote.
I love your articles – very intelligent ang mga topics mo, parang lawyer ka rin, kasi very knowledgeable ka sa batas natin.
Move powere to you.
jun Del Mondos
power to ofws
you do sacrifice a lot
and contribute 10% of gdp but dont get the recognition or support – especially if in middle east
the access to and treatment of mental health problems is abysmal in the country, and now we have ambulance chase lawyers claiming arroyo has depression and anorexia.
i can assure you she doesnt and it is an insult to genuine sufferers , who cannot afford 50,000 peso a day in st lukes.
this is a despicable act of desperation.
i hope you can write about the plight of mental health whilst an ex president uses it to try and escape her self inflicted problems. no empathy.
the only mental health condition she suffers from is narcissistic personality disorder. NPD.
look up the symptoms in DSM 4
Ah, Nona. so many things to write about.
One day I will.
sometimes a spell away from the intrigues of politicos and a dose of real life rebalances and reaffirms the reasons for change.
keep up the good work
Ross Lagrada says
Hi there Ms Raissa. my fav news online reading is PDI. then somewhere along online news, i found your news item… clicked and whooaa!!!. i found u. and I loooove every word of it. i found enough info bloodline in you. Hurray to you. geee,,,may u and I will live longer to see fair justice in our country…
God bless 2 u.
Thank you, Ross.
God bless you, too.
Actually, I used to contribute some articles to Inquirer.
Initially, I wanted to write for them, but they turned me down.
So I decided to set up my own blog and write the way I wanted to.
I decided to hell with it. I just want to write the way I please, using the international standards I learned while writing for my newspaper SCMP and Asiaweek magazine.
The continuing erosion of credibility in politicians and the judiciary, where legal technicalities and tortuous procedures over-ride justice and common sense, and where self interest & personal greed prevail to the detriment of the country, only ensures that the social divide widens, progress is restricted, justice is selective, and prosperity unattainable.
The continual dramas and crises simply is a reaction to the effects without trying to understand or address the root causes.
You cant keep applying band aids to a patient who needs radical surgery, just as you cant drain the swamp when you are busy fighting crocodiles.
On the 2nd anniversary of the massacre which shocked the world justice remains further away than ever and no lessons seem to have been learnt.
The world has also lost respect for a country which uses the law to allow lawmakers themselves to escape justice and treat human life so cheaply.
john c. jacinto says
Lagman is a toady of Pandak and so his trying to twist the law is understandable. Let’s concede to him that perverse pleasure.
ma’am raissa, while it is true that the DOJ conducted preliminary investigation concurrently with the Comelec (based on Sec. 43 of RA 9369) it was ONLY the Comelec, true to its mandate as an independent Constitutional body, that filed the case against the Electoral Sabotage respondents gloria et al.
this has to be clear because the “concurrent” thing aka the Comelec-DOJ panel was in effect put to a test in gloria’s case. this application of a 2007 specific amendment to BP 881 is now being heard and deliberated on at the Supreme Court as to its constitutionality.
hence, in the eyes of some, gloria’s case is a TESTIS case and the BALL is now in the hands of the Supreme Court (the reason for Topacio’s bet…).
over at Elenville:
Re: de Lima as a trojan,
it may be said that DOJ DC 41 (the consolidated WLO-HDO-etc from past DOJ circulars) and Sec. 43 of RA 9369 are part of gloria’s landmines. it only takes one person in de Lima to step on them and boom, all hell broke loose.
we’ll leave it to perception if de Lima is truly a trojan horse or is simply a fool like Brillantes or Lagman who are jeopardizing the independence of the Comelec.
i believe there are still landmines and trojans…and fools…out there to produce more chaos.
this situation was clairvoyantly seen by gloria herself when she considered herself as a cause of a never-ending divisiveness among us and YET she continued to stay in politics.
june dumag says
Hi mam raisa,
The reason why GMA ran for Congress is because she was thinking she can still be shielded for all her horrendous crimes that she committed during her FAKE PRESIDENCY. Can you imagine a president running for a lower post after her term? GMA does not care what people will say, because she thinks that’s the only way to save her, and also to appoint almost all the justices of the supreme court plus the illegal midnight chief justice appointee! BUT THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN! THE FILIPINO PEOPLE WILL NOT AGREE THAT GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO WILL BE SET FREE! SHE HAS TO FACE HER CHARGES AND BE PUNISHED! NO PRESIDENTIAL PARDON, NOT AT ALL!
– 1 –
Hindi ba natin napansin na…
Tayo pa rin sa “People Power” ang una?
Habang ang Amerika’y “Occupy Wall St.” pa lang…
At ang buong mundo’y “Occupy all streets” naman
Tayo’y hindi na nagsagawa ng EDSA nang lantaran
Ito’y dahil sa ang EDSA’y nasa atin na’ng diwa
– 2 –
Ngayo’y “Occupy the hearts and minds” na
‘Di na kailangang makibaka sa kalsada
Wala naman kasing naghalal sa mga taga Korte Suprema
Ang inihalal sa ehekutibo ang mas pinanigan pa
Walang “Rule of Law” ang makahihigit sa…
Umiral na “Rule of Majority” sa ating bansa!
O, sadyang nakaaawa
Ang pinagmimistulang abang glorya
Sapagka’t ang karamihan
Sa kaniya’y hindi naaawa
(Ulitin ang koro 2x)