Palace to invoke EO 464 again
MANILA, Philippines — Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita Wednesday said Malacañang would invoke Executive Order No. 464 when the Senate invites Cabinet and military officers to its investigation into the “Hello Garci” scandal.
Ermita also said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Armed Forces of the Philippines had more pressing problems to attend to, particularly the Mindanao conflict, which has claimed dozens of military lives in recent weeks.
Ermita said Executive Order 464 was not entirely voided by the Supreme Court and that its valid provisions would govern the appearance of officials to be summoned to any Senate inquiry.
EO 464 bars government officials from appearing in congressional hearings without Ms Arroyo’s consent.
Ms Arroyo issued the order in September 2005 while the Senate was investigating the “Hello Garci” scandal, the fertilizer scam and the Venable contract issue.
The “Hello Garci” scandal erupted after the opposition claimed that it had obtained tape recordings of wiretapped phone conversations between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano on how to rig the results of the 2004 presidential election.
The high court declared portions of the EO unconstitutional for curtailing the congressional power to get information for its inquiries in aid of legislation.
The high tribunal, however, declared constitutional the President’s right to ban executive officials from appearing during the Question Hour in Congress.
Under the doctrine of executive privilege, the President may disallow the disclosure of classified and confidential information between her and certain public officials, specifically if these are matters affecting national security and public order; information between inter-government agencies prior to the conclusion of treaties of executive agreements; and discussions in closed-door Cabinet meetings.
Ermita said he had thought that the Garci tape issue “was behind us, but since Sen. Panfilo Lacson delivered a privilege speech on it, we’ll have to go by the rules of the Senate and also by what is provided for in the Constitution on when and how members of the executive should be attending the inquiries.”
“We will just go by what the Supreme Court decision is all about, the intent of the Supreme Court decision, so we will just invoke that, but not to make anything difficult for anybody,” Ermita added.
Questions in advance
He said Malacañang would allow officials to appear if the Senate would state the proposed legislation involved in its investigation, and submit questions in advance.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez believes the military could invoke EO 464 and snub the planned Senate hearing.
“I think the military can invoke that. That is sustained by the Supreme Court,” Gonzalez told reporters.
Gonzalez also thinks the military should not attend the Senate hearing.
“I think they should refuse unless the Commander-in-Chief will allow it because the Supreme Court said the chain of command has to be followed,” he said. With a report from Leila B. Salaverria