‘Resign’–UP law students, faculty to Arroyo
MANILA, Philippines — Students and professors of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday to go on leave, or resign over her continued refusal to publicly condemn alleged corruption and bribery in the national broadband network (NBN) deal.
Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel, and close ally, resigned Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., have been implicated to the scandal-tainted deal, which the President scrapped after the Senate launched an inquiry. Lately, Arroyo herself has been accused of standing to gain from the NBN contract had it pushed through.
“The President’s own silence on this matter is totally unacceptable. The exposés have directly implicated her,” UP College of Law Dean Salvador Carlota said, reading from a statement.
Carlota accused Arroyo and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez of violating public trust by their silence and inaction on revelations of the corruption that allegedly attended the approval of the $329-million deal with Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp.
“Public office is a public trust. This is the core principle of our republican and democratic nation,” Carlota read from the UP Law community’s statement, “A Call for Truth and Accountability.”
Following revelations by Jose de Venecia III, Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) chairman Romulo Neri, and Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., the “silence and inaction of the President and the Ombudsman directly violate this core principle,” he said.
“Instead of adopting a policy of full disclosure, she has allowed her former NEDA [National Economic Development Authority] director general and acting CHEd chairperson to keep a selective silence — when summoned by the Senate but not by Malacañang,” Carlota said.
The UP Law statement said Arroyo and Gutierrez should take a leave of absence, at the minimum, but also consider resignation.
“We now make the following calls: First, for those in government who have been implicated by key witnesses, as a minimum response, to take a leave of absence until the controversy is resolved,” Carlota said.
“For the President and the Ombudsman, while we have asked, at the minimum, for them to take a leave of absence, we say also: resignation is always an option,” the statement said.
Carlota later qualified that Arroyo or Gutierrez should take a leave pending the completion of the Senate inquiry into the NBN deal.
“The minimum that we want her to do is to take a leave while the [Senate] investigation is ongoing to erase any doubt that the investigatory process will be tainted,” he said in reply to a question.
Theodore Te, director of the college’s Office of Legal Aid, said: “That’s the minimum. The other option is resignation.”
In the statement, the students and professors also asked Gutierrez to go on leave to avoid the perception that she would influence the results of the Ombudsman’s investigation of charges implicating Malacañang itself in the deal.
They said her inhibition from the hearing was not sufficient.
“By simply remaining in office, she still has enough influence to ensure that the current investigation goes the way of other major investigations — nowhere,” Carlota said.
The government functionaries who whisked Lozada away from the airport upon his return from Hong Kong on February 5, and those who tried to coax Lozada out of his testimony before the Senate should also take a leave of absence.
“I think the testimony of key witnesses during a hearing by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee specified the names of officials who in one way or another have participated in the NBN deal,” Carlota said in reply to a question.
The law students and professors also made the following calls:
— For the Department of Justice to immediately terminate its investigation of the NBN deal which appears irregular because no complaint was filed with it;
— For the Ombudsman and the Office of the Special Prosecutor to charge and prosecute those responsible; and
— For the UP alumni, particularly those from the College of Law, “to be faithful to the interests of our people.”
Lorybeth Baldrias-Serrano, president of the UP Law Student Government (LSG), urged fellow law students to step up calls for the President’s resignation.
“LSG will continue to call for her resignation. If President Macapagal-Arroyo refuses to resign, we don’t care. We will keep at it. We will keep on doing what we believe is right,” she said at the same news conference.
Carlota dismissed calls for a snap election in the event Arroyo continues to rebuff calls for her resignation.
He said a snap election would work only if all the constitutional successors of Arroyo agree not to succeed her in case she resigns.
He said another option “permissible” under the Constitution is impeachment, but pointed out that people have to wait until after the one-year ban on the filing of an impeachment complaint lapses.
Sought for comment on Bishop Angel Lagdameo’s call for a new brand of people power, Carlota said: “I understand that Bishop Lagdameo is not advocating the type that was used in EDSA 1, or even EDSA 2. They’re trying to introduce a new concept, communal action, which up to now they’re trying to fine-tune.”
“What we can say as law-abiding citizens who believe in the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution is that any kind of action which does not collide with the concept of rule of law and constitutionalism is something that can be legally justified,” he added.
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