Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reviewing the IIRC Report

Someone asked me why the President should order a review of the report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC). Did he not give the responsibility of doing the investigation mainly to the Secretary of Justice and the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, both members of his inner circle? Actually the answer to that question was given long ago by the Supreme Court.

Under our presidential system there is only one President and "all executive and administrative organizations are adjuncts of the Executive Department, the heads of the various executive departments are assistants and agents of the Chief Executive, and, except in cases where the Chief Executive is required by the Constitution or law to act in person or the exigencies of the situation demand that he act personally, the multifarious executive and administrative functions of the Chief Executive are performed by and through the executive departments, and the acts of the secretaries of such departments, performed and promulgated in the regular course of business, are, unless disapproved or reprobated by the Chief Executive, presumptively the acts of the Chief Executive."

What this means is that a decision of a department secretary, when not expressly disowned by the President, is already the President’s decision. But this also means that decisions of department heads are always subject to review and even reversal by the President if he chooses to do so. Every person who accepts a position in the executive department accepts it on this understanding.

This principle flows from the President’s power of control over all executive departments. As the Constitution says, “The President shall have control of all executive departments, bureaus and offices.” Moreover, in the hierarchy of department secretaries, the Executive Secretary occupies a position of preeminence when acting “by authority of the President.” Thus, the Executive Secretary, even if not the smartest, or even an Assistant Executive Secretary, when acting "by authority of the President," may reverse the decision of a department head.

Will the President accept the IIRC’s report in toto? He may or he may not. And even if he does, that would not be the end of the report. The report, aside from containing a recitation of facts and conclusions, also contains recommendations of administrative and criminal charges against certain persons. These recommendations, if acted upon, will have to go through the rigorous requirements of due process. They will also be a test of the political will of the new administration.

The charges against individual persons are serious and certainly the people concerned will demand that they be given a day in court. But another delicate aspect of the report is what it says about media. Quite obviously the members of the IIRC, in preparing the report, were aware that media, as vehicles of free expression and information, occupy a special position in the hierarchy of rights. Hence, the IIRC Report did not have any specific recommendation. I just hope that, in reacting to the behavior of media during the hostage crisis, whatever action is taken by government will not have the effect of prior restraint on future media actions.

Who should be in charge of the House

I was surprised that a number of persons expressed concern about the fact that the President did not appoint a care-taker while he was away. Behind some of this concern, I am sure, was an expression of sympathy for the Vice-President who appeared to have been left out. But the Vice-President himself did not seem to be bothered at all. And rightly so.

The absence of the President from the country is not a basis for the activation of the order of succession found in the Constitution. The Vice-President takes over the functions of the President in an acting capacity only when the incumbent President is temporarily incapacitated to perform the functions of his office. In this age of sophisticated means of communication, the President is not really away when he is away on a trip. And he certainly is not incapacitated when he can relive his early youth and enjoy hotdogs in the streets of New York!

relocation of informal settlers

You might say that the constitutional command is clear enough: “Urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwellings demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner. No resettlement of urban or rural dwellers shall be undertaken without adequate consultation with them and the communities where they are to be relocated.”

Does this mean that the validity or legality of the demolition or eviction is hinged on the existence of a resettlement area designated or earmarked by the government? That would be the ideal; but jurisprudence has answered that question in the negative. What is required is that “the person to be evicted be accorded due process or an opportunity to controvert the allegation that his or her occupation or possession of the property involved is unlawful or against the will of the landowner; that should the illegal or unlawful occupation be proven, the occupant be sufficiently notified before actual eviction or demolition is done; and there be no loss of lives, physical injuries or unnecessary loss of or damage to properties.”

As can readily be seen, legal pronouncements on the subject will not be enough to prevent the confusion and damage to persons such as those which happened in recent evictions in Metro Manila.

27 September 2010


  1. MICHAEL ROGAS: Captain Rolando Mendoza, good evening, sir...
    CAPT. ROLANDO MENDOZA: Good evening, sir.

    MICHAEL: This is Michael Rogas from RMN. Sir, you are the hostage taker, is it right?
    MENDOZA: Right, sir.
    MICHAEL: What is your plan at this juncture, sir?

    x x x x x

    (The ever hopeful Mendoza reads aloud the Ombudsman’s letter upon the request of Rogas. Note that Mendoza is already in personal contact with Orlando Yebra, the chief negotiator.)

    MENDOZA: x x x x x...for me this is trash, this letter is trash! This is not what I need!

    MICHAEL: Ok, what’s your plan, sir? Now that your demand was not met…
    MENDOZA: For me this is trash, this is not what I need. What I need is their decision, reversing or not reversing (my dismissal). That’s it! Thank you for the effort of the mayor and the vice mayor, I don’t need that letter, sir.

    MICHAEL: What is your plan now, sir, what do you want?
    MENDOZA: There’s nothing in that (letter), nothing, none whatsoever, sir. It only says a review will be done. In effect, nothing will come of it, nothing, sir. That paper is nothing to me, if it said (I am) dismissed already, nothing will happen as a result (of that letter), sir.

    MICHAEL: Captain, what’s your plan now, sir?

    MENDOZA (addressing Yebra): This one, I’ll make an example of this one, step aside, go away…I don’t need that (letter), sir, that letter has nothing to say…you, you’re a lawyer…there’s nothing in that (letter)!

    MICHAEL: Captain, wait, please calm down.
    MICHAEL: Captain, take it easy, sir…What’s your plan now, sir, inasmuch as your demand was not granted, we will call the Ombudsman at this point in time.
    MENDOZA: Most likely something bad will happen inside this bus.

    MICHAEL: Wait, through us, RMN (live radio broadcast), what is your request (from the authorities)?

    x x x x x


  2. Clearly, the negotiator failed MISERABLY in his job as he wasn’t able to frame a “yes-able” proposition to the hostage taker. Imagine asking an already impatient (Read: pissed off) gunman to still wait for a review???

    And adding insult to injury had the temerity to “lie” to the hostage taker (borne by his incoordination with assistant negotiator Romeo Salvador who promised to return the brother’s handgun and the extreme error of bringing along the brother whose presence is already suspect the first time this brother appeared on the scene)???

    Nonetheless, I believe a re-negotiation can still be done with a new…this time, trustworthy…negotiator.

    All demands of Mendoza are negotiable even up to the last minute: the primary demand (reinstatement) and the instant demands (pullout of the snipers, withdrawal of the SWAT team seen deploying, and stopping the arrest of his brother – regardless if Mendoza saw the “manhandling” on TV).

    If only the events were not overtaken by Rogas’ so-called “interview.” If only Rogas didn’t “harass” Mendoza. If only Rogas didn’t “promise” an effective communication to authorities. If only Rogas didn’t put upon himself and RMN the task of mediating the hostage taker’s demands…

    If only RMN (through Jake Maderazo) alerted the police early on the “interview” of their ongoing talks with Mendoza…

    If only Mendoza was given an opportunity of a TRUE DIALOGUE, then none of the innocents are dead today.

  3. Quote of the Year:

    "The interview by (radio reporter) Michael Rogas gave the hostages an extra few hours to live," Pimentel, a former senator, told the station.


    The politicians and the police are accountable but those irresponsible members of media, by virtue of their constitutionally-protected primary right to press freedom, are NOT. The most they will get, if ever found guilty of Grave Offense (first time) by the “self-regulatory” body of the KBP – the KBP Standards Authority – is a Php15,000 fine plus reprimand (Rogas and Tulfo) and Php30,000 fine plus censure (RMN).

    If the whole picture of the culminating events of the August 23 Hostage Incident will not be understood then those irresponsible members of media will continue with their irresponsibility…”only doing their jobs,” as they are mouthing what they did, with clean hands…when all the while they are bloodied by their insatiable hunger for news and their unquenchable thirst for fame!


    Media vilifying media should probably be a part of SELF-REGULATION.