Law students’ group urges peers to respect due process
MANILA, Philippines — Saying not all law students are calling for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s immediate resignation, a group of aspiring lawyers said on Tuesday they were supporting constitutional processes in resolving the current political crisis over the National Broadband Network corruption scandal.
The Alliance of Law Students Affirming Constitutional Process (Alsacap) urged people to respect due process enshrined in the country’s Charter and also railed against the Philippine Daily Inquirer for “malicious, baseless and biased journalism” in connection with the Spratlys issue.
The Philippines’ Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking with China and Vietnam off the Spratly Islands has come under fire for allegedly being unconstitutional and compromising the country’s Spratlys claims and territorial integrity, an allegation that government officials have denied.
Opposition senators have been eyeing a Senate probe into the matter, suspecting that the JMSU was what China got for billions in dollars of loans it granted to the Philippines for development projects that included the allegedly overpriced NBN.
In a press conference, Alsacap member and Far Eastern University law student Gary Asuncion said the group recently began and intended to continue visiting law schools to call for the law students to respect the Constitution and follow the rule of law.
Among the schools the group held talks in recently were San Beda College, Arellano University and FEU. At present, the group has about 280 members, according to Asuncion.
Asuncion said the group lamented the fact that the things that they were learning in class were being set aside. Calls for the President to resign have mounted after new witnesses, like former government official Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. and Dante Madriaga, surfaced to allege massive kickbacks and overpricing in the NBN deal in the Senate hearings.
“Let us stop disregarding this basic document that keeps us all bound as one country, one people and most of all one nation,” the Alsacap statement stated, referring to the Philippine Constitution.
The group also contested the statement of the Law Student Government Coordinating Council (LSGCC) calling for the President to step down. The LSGCC is composed of law student councils from the University of the Philippines, University of Sto. Tomas, Ateneo de Manila University and University of the East.
“As a student of law, such call goes beyond what is required by the Constitution … but we never disregarded the provision of our Constitution on due process, legal proceedings and the like. If the President has omissions, liabilities, there is always a venue for it as provided in the 1987 Constitution,” it said.
Asuncion also said not all law students were calling for the President’s resignation, as it was made to appear.
Princess Kiram of the Youth Student Power for Peace said in the same press conference that the group supported Alsaca’s call for due process. Kiram said the impeachment process would be available for parties in seeking the removal of the President over corruption.
Alsacap also criticized the Inquirer, claiming that its report on the seismic survey off the Spratly Islands had no basis.
“We somehow challenge PDI on the move to verify reports and balance its views especially that which will strain our diplomatic relationship with country like People’s Republic of China,” the Alsacap said.
Inquirer recently reported that Eduardo Mañalac, former president of the Philippine National Oil Company who signed the JMSU on behalf of the Philippine government, was the surprise witness in the NBN-ZTE hearings and that the ZTE deal was linked to the JMSU.
Mañalac denied being the witness and demanded an apology from the Inquirer.