President presumed guilty until proven innocent

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Critics of President Aquino are often stumped and disarmed by the twin claims of absolute immunity from suit as president, which is hallowed in tradition, and incorruptibility, which cannot be disproved unless his hands are caught filching from the cookie jar, even though billions of public money are plundered under his nose.

Thomas Sowell, distinguished US professor, economist, political philosopher, author, and columnist, who has made a name in turning many a sacrosanct idea (affirmative action, among others) on its head, has come up with a novel approach for cracking the seeming presidential armor of immunity and even impunity.

He contends that the “innocent until proven guilty” defense for an accused should not apply to anyone who occupies such a high office as the presidency.

He reasons this way:
“The “innocent until proven guilty” principle applies in a court of law. Outside a court of law, there is no reason to presume anyone innocent until proven guilty. It is especially dangerous to presume a President of the United States — any president — innocent until proven guilty.


“Whoever is president has the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans, and the fate of a nation, in his hands. It is those millions of people and that nation who deserve the benefit of the doubt. We need to err on the side of safety for the people and the country. Squeamish politeness to an individual cannot outweigh that.”

Sowell says it’s important and necessary to keep this presumption of guilt in mind, in weighing the next president during an election year and all future presidents.

Questions of fitness for office are very important. Red flag warnings on any candidate should not be ignored.

Better to deal with possible unsuitability for high office now, before he or she acquires immunity from suit and all the powers to do his worst.

What Sowell says about the US situation applies squarely to our situation here in the Philippines. We are a nation of over 100 million, 40 percent of whom are poor. The benefit of the doubt should go to the larger society, not to the solitary figure of President Aquino.

He should stand trial every day for his conduct in office.

No immunity under 1987 Constitution
From the website Abogadomo.com, I got a very interesting and informative briefing on presidential immunity. Significantly, according to the website, the 1987 Constitution does not provide for presidential immunity from suit. President Cory’s handpicked constitutional commissioners forgot to shield her and her successors. Senators and congressmen actually got more protection.

Says Abogadomo. Com:
“Unlike congressional immunity, presidential immunity is not expressly stated nor prescribed by the Constitution. Basis for the immunity is only found in jurisprudence, both in the US and the Philippines, which, by virtue of Article 8 of the Civil Code, “forms a part of the legal system of the Philippines.”

“In the case of In re: Bermudez, (1986), the Supreme Court expressly held that – Incumbent presidents are immune from suit or from being brought to court during the period of their incumbency and tenure.

“The purpose of the immunity was discussed in the case of Soliven, et al., vs Judge Makasiar (1988), where the Supreme Court stated that “The rationale for the grant to the President of the privilege of immunity from suit is to assure the exercise of Presidential duties and functions free from any hindrance or distraction, considering that being the Chief Executive of the Government is a job that, aside from requiring all of the office-holder’s time, also demands undivided attention.”

Ironically, a challenge to presidential immunity arose when President Cory Aquino sued for libel columnists Louie Beltran and Max Soliven for writing in their columns that she hid under the bed or got scared silly at the height of Gringo Honasan’s first coup attempt

Lawyers for the defense argued that “the reasons which necessitate presidential immunity from suit impose a correlative disability to file suit.” The petitioners’ argument was turned down by the Court.

An official’s absolute immunity extends only to acts in performance of particular functions of his office. The doctrine of immunity finds no application and cannot be invoked in cases where the public official is being sued in his private capacity or as an ordinary citizen. The mantle of protection afforded public officers is removed the moment they are sued in their individual capacity.

Aquino has only one year to go
This brings me back to Professor Sowell’s far more interesting point about presuming the president guilty until he is proved innocent. The powers and cares of the presidency are such that a president should be placed under constant judgment and trial, because the dangers of mistakes and abuse are great.

Take the Bangsamoro project of President Aquino. It would be absurd to presume him innocent after all that he has done to compromise the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

While he’s still in office, all we can do is watch him.

Once he’s out of office one year from tonight, his detractors can sue BS all over the place.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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15 Comments

  1. Roldan Guerrero on

    We know all about what this administration is. It is a total failure Filipinos must not snub. Giving chance for its continued regime is an outright suicide which we should not do as we still have the ability to recover from the damages it inflicted. Any win by its element is clearly a significance of election cheating. They are now in trouble thinking of remedies of how to stay in power as surely if they cant, they will all go to jail. Let us all guard and protect the integrity of 2016 elections such that deserving, competent and honest successors will prevail.

  2. Teddy Sevilla on

    You confuse me. In your previous articles you espouse authoritarianism and an undisguised wish of a return to the good old days of the “Bagong Lipunan.” Then, obviously unwittingly, you propose a notion, albeit unoriginal, that will significantly degrade the presidency.

    The sword cuts both ways. What should work against your much-hated Abnoy should also work on the president-in-waiting Binay (and then on to biding-his-time Bongbong).

    I have no idea, therefore, what side of the political fence you belong to. Hard right with a tinge of liberal? I guess it is a case of reading too much and becoming overly excited over what one has read.

  3. constitutional change/cha cha isn’t practical at this time. it should be done after the 2016 elections, or else, pnoy will be the only one to benefit for it.

  4. Lord Chimera on

    Dense or not BSA does know the well-deserved fate that awaits when his term ends. He really needs a successor to protect hims from such a fate.

  5. In fairness, to quote his beloved bunso sibling,
    1> He should be under hospital arrest , if not detained in Sta. Rosa Laguna.
    2> He should be with very limited visiting arrangements, special ocassions will need
    prior PNP approval(preferably SAF)
    3> No TV or newspapers and most important ******
    4> No computer No games No puyat ( As an act of kindness he should be allowed
    to listen to tapes of speeches made by Manuel Araneta Roxas at least daily )
    That is the most fair and deserved treatment .

  6. laguatanlawzen.com on

    Let ABNOY face the music or get the dose of his own medicine when he finally step down from office in June 2016. He will certainly suffer the “KARMATIC” effect for what he did to Gloria and CJ Corona.

  7. P.Akialamiro on

    Lame duck’ Pres. BS Aquino will go down in history as the ‘worst’ the country ever had. There’s no doubt he is now being considered as
    ‘guilty’ and this will show after the elections when the LP will suffer big losses in the polls, national or local, and charges will be filed against this president.

    • Providing the election were fair but 5 years ago the voting machines were found to have the security and accuracy components disabled.

      The Liberal Party has every intention of fixing the next election so the presidents choice will be elected and shield him from prosecution of the Pork barrel and Dap fund giveaways, the SAF 44 coverup etc.

      They did it 5 years ago so its game on for 2016.

  8. jesus nazario on

    The President pala is a very clear and present danger to the entire populace. Lalo na if he presents clear and present mental imbalance day in and day out. Woe to the people ! Sowell presented so well and so simply the rationale against such an irrational provision in the Constitution. THIS definitely is a clear and urgent rationale for a Cha Cha if only for totally expunging such provision. We have seen the awesome powers a President wields. Awesome powers to do good and sadly to do evil as well. And we the sovereign people have been helpless over the past five years in stopping the awesome powers used with impunity in the practice of the latter. Naka-ngangang nagngingingit lang tayo while the entire (except a very very anointed few) nation suffers.

  9. pnoy now trying hard to be clean back stabbing his allies. now the stage show against binay, and binay hitting the administration of the aquinos of what’s already been heard before, like mrt, etc. why don’t he hit on the farmers cry to get back their land. then, people will believe in him for sure and get their votes. or else, he’s just saving the king.

  10. Indeed, the 1987 Constitution does not contain any explicit prohibition of any case being lodged against any incumbent president. Hence, I am still continuing my begging exercises so that I can have enough cash to pay for filing fees. It seems that even the IBP has lost the balls to initiate the legal action.

  11. Felimon A. Soria on

    I wonder Mr. Makabenta if an elected president who knows that he or she is not qualified because of the question of citizenship, how are the courts going to deal with it?