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Saturday, March 22, 2008

a critical analysis of "let neri testify"

There are fallacious claims with their respective assumptions and supporting grounds in the March 9, 2008 article “Let Neri Testify” written by Artemio V. Panganiban whose column With Due Respect appears in Philippine Daily Inquirer.
First, Panganiban claimed that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s revocation of Executive Order 464 and Memorandum Circular 108 was legally irrelevant based on grounds that these were mere symbolic acts and that that their major parts were already declared unconstitutional. This is fallacious because the President has the executive powers to issue such an order and circular, making the move relevant because the Constitution guarantees the President’s rights to execute. If these were just symbols, then the President would be merely deluded into thinking that she possesses executive powers that were merely symbolic too, which in truth were not. Also, if some parts of the declarations were unconstitutional, then some unmentioned parts are actually constitutional, making them not entirely irrelevant.
Second, the columnist claimed that “the congressional power of inquiry is as extensive as the power to legislate” based on the grounds that in support of legislation, the Congress “has a constitutional right to obtain information from the Executive Branch” and in response, the executive branch is bound by the duty to supply information needed by the Congress to consummate legislation. This is fallacious because the executive privilege already limits the extent of the congressional right to information, making its right to legislate more extensive than its right to inquiry. The Congress may have right to get information from the President but as the President deems fit under certain conditions, she can invoke executive privilege, hindering the legislature’s completion of its inquiry no matter how important this is to the lawmaking process.
Third, Panganiban claimed that “disclosure is the rule and secrecy is the exception” based on the grounds that the public’s interest is prioritized and, therefore, the executive privilege must be evaluated in the context it is made out of. This is fallacious since the term “secrecy” is semantically problematic because it seems to suggest that the President is hiding something abominable to the public, whereas the President is all ready to disclose relevant information as long as state affairs would not jeopardize military and diplomatic affairs, identity of informers who report authorities violating the very laws they are sworn to enforce are protected, and discussions of formulated state decisions and policies that will cause public threat or alarm—in short, the President can selectively disclose in order to make superior the public’s interest.
Fourth, the columnist claimed that only President Arroyo has the right to executive privilege based on the grounds that Cabinet members get involved with the privilege only as presidential consultants and that they can invoke the privilege only when authorized by the President. This is fallacious since the executive department does not just involve the President but her Cabinet members as well. Hence, what the President can invoke, the Cabinet can do likewise being members of the executive branch of the government. Being an indispensable part of the executive department, the Cabinet has as much privilege as the President in remaining silent if circumstances merit it.
Fifth, the author claimed that “executive privilege refers to categories of information, not of officials” based on the grounds that practically anyone can gather and, thus testify for, state information and that the public is barred from accessing the state’s secret information. This is fallacious because the privilege, in fact, refers to officials and not categories of information by the fact that it is qualified by the term “executive.” Anyone cannot just divulge state information, only officials of the government, no matter how strategically positioned that one is vis-à-vis the collection of the top-secret information. Also, the public’s right to know is limited by circumstances including the eventual generation of public hysteria, of massive revolt from the national defenses or of tensed breaking of diplomatic ties with other countries.

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