Last of two parts
AT the time of Senator Poe’s headline-grabbing press conference of March 17, 2015, many journalists wondered how and where Ms. Poe got the term “ultimately responsible” that took such a prominent place in her executive summary and the media stories, and became seemingly the conclusion of the committee report.
Our research on “ultimately responsible” took us to the files and records of our House of Representatives and our Senate. To our dismay, our principal discovery here is that House committees do not always accomplish a committee report after concluding an inquiry. The Senate is similarly lazy and negligent.
This unfruitful search impelled us to search in published accounts of congressional and parliamentary inquiries in the US and the UK. After weeks of fruitless research, we finally had a bit of good luck.
Exhibit C US Congress Joint committee report on Iran-Contra Affair
We found it in, of all places, a book on the character factor in leadership, which included a chapter on famous presidential crises and congressional investigations.
The revealing discovery was a discussion of the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 during the administration of Ronald Reagan. The controversy concerned the sale of arms to Iran and the channeling of the sales proceeds to the Contras in Nicaragua, who were seeking to bring down its left-wing government.
The issue caused an uproar in the US Congress, because it had explicitly forbidden the funding of efforts at regime change in countries abroad.
Led by the House of Representratives, Congress conducted joint committee hearings on Iran-Contra. Revelations and discoveries made during the inquiry were explosive. Several top guns in the Reagan administration were indicted and wound up serving jail terms.
Reagan changed his story at least three times during the investigation.
The joint committees submitted a much-awaited report.
In the report‘s conclusion on pages 21-22, the document declared:
“The ultimate responsibility for the events in the Iran-Contra Affair must rest with the President. If the President did not know what his national security advisers were doing, he should have. …it was the President’s policy – not an isolated decision by North or Poindexter – to sell arms secretly to Iran and to maintain the Contras ‘body and soul,’ the Boland amaendment nothwithstanding…”
Bingo!!! We had found what we were looking for.
The committee stopped short of recommending the impeachment of Reagan. The issue had come down to this: If the President had known and approved of the diversion of funds, impeachment proceedings would have resulted.
Reagan’s actions in the aftermath of public disclosures were superior to and different from the actions of Presidents Nixon and Clinton to their own crises of survival. Reagan ordered the truth to be found and cooperated with the investigating authorities.
No plagiarism, just copycat
Senator Poe, perhaps on the advice of Escudero and the inquiry consultants from the Ateneo, decided to adopt “ultimate responsibility” as a sexy way of summarizing the findings of the Mamasapano inquiry; the adjective form used was designed to soften the blow to President Aquino.
With “ultimately responsible,” Senator Poe could portray herself as courageous in daring to call President Aquino responsible for Mamasapano. She preened before the cameras and dressed herself in virtue. When she was coquettish, the gullible media thought they were looking at a movie star.
It is too much of a coincidence for her executive summary to say “ultimately responsible” and the US Congress committee report to pronounce a judgment of ultimate responsibility. Mamasapano and Iran-Contra are totally unlike from each other.
Senator Poe’s amateurism and political immaturity and addiction to publicity show in her adoption of “ultimately responsible” as her personal take on Mamasapano. She could not see or appreciate the bigger issues of accountability that had to be addressed and settled by the inquiry. She was more concerned about not incurring the ire of the President than about discovering the truth in Mamasapano.
I make no accusation here that Senator Poe plagiarized the US congressional committee
report. Congressional reports bear no copyright. I do say that Senator Poe copied its finding and deceived us all.
What is deplorable is that Poe’s executive summary distracted the media away from the real committee report. “Ulitimately responsible” stopped us from demanding a copy of the actual committee report.
Instead of a conclusion honestly arrived at by patient and diligent review of the testimony and documents, Senator Poe copied something pre-cooked, and she did not have the good sense to make the summary and the committee report jibe in language and findings
Why was Escudero up front?
In the course of our research, some members of my team asked or were asked why Senator Escudero and the Senate committee on finance took such a prominent role in the Senate hearings.
The Mamasapano tragedy concerned nothing and involved nothing that could be remotely tied to the budgetary and financial concerns of government.
Senator Escudero was not one of the senators who filed resolutions for the investigation of Mamasapano. Those who did file, in addition to Senator Poe, were Senators Sotto,
Guingona, Defensor-Santiago and Legarda. These senators had good reason to be involved in the inquiry.
Senator Escudero was strictly an interloper. But Senate President Franklin Drilon saw the value of having up front in the inquiry someone who would never have the guts to cross President Aquino. And he wanted to be in front to see the execution of his plot to use the inquiry as the launchpad for the Poe-Escudero team.
SC not property of any majority
So now, here we all are—in a quandary over having to decide whether to accept or reject the incredible Supreme Court decision that Grace Poe is a natural-born Filipino citizen, and a tenured resident.
The High Court needs to be reminded about the real limits of majority rule and decision making, which the great Walter Lippmann described as follows:
“Free institutions are not the property of any majority. They do not confer upon majoritries unlimited powers. The rights of the majority are limited rights. They are limited not only by the constitutional guarantee, but by the real principle implied in that guarantee.”
The nation must not allow its Supreme Court to be taken hostage by a bogus and questionable majority.