WITH a vote of 32-6, including six abstentions, the faculty of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines has decided to issue a collective statement on the issue of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s taped conversations. The statement, officially released July 4, 2005, received “yes” votes from 16 of the College’s 23 full-time law professors. Thirteen faculty members were, however, unable to cast their votes.
The statement follows:
We, the Faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law, in line with our responsibilities as lawyers, educators, and citizens of the Republic, have decided to present our collective views on the issue of the “Gloria Tapes.”
We believe that Malacañang’s confirmation that President Arroyo made the calls to Commissioner Garcillano implies more than a mere “lapse of judgment” or simple impropriety. We believe that it constitutes an inexplicable and inexcusable failure to adhere to fundamental precepts of the Constitution.
President Arroyo took an oath to “faithfully and conscientiously fulfill [her] duties as President of the Philippines, preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate [herself] to the service of the Nation.” [Article VII, Section 5] Under Section 17 of the same Article, she is mandated to “ensure that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Among the laws that the President swore to preserve, defend, and faithfully execute is Article IX, Section 1 of the Constitution, which guarantees the independence of the COMELEC. A series of direct, personal calls from the Chief Executive, a candidate in the elections, to a COMELEC official during the election period, already grossly violates that independence. Taking into account the content of the conversations — which indicate manipulation of the canvassing process, concealment of illegal acts, and outright electoral fraud — underscores the debasement of the constitutional right to suffrage, the very foundation of our democracy, and establishes the criminal culpability of President Arroyo.
Fulfilment of these fundamental constitutional duties did not require any “judgment” on the part of President Arroyo — only full and faithful adherence to basic and straightforward provisions of the Constitution.
We believe that with this glaring failure to abide by the duties of her high office, President Arroyo has lost the capacity to serve the public trust with the utmost responsibility and integrity. She has become morally, and constitutionally, unfit to be President.
We are therefore calling upon President Arroyo to resign.
If she takes our nation’s best interests to heart and is genuinely sorry for her failure to do her duty, she should step down. Resignation is the best apology she can offer the Filipino people.
We are likewise calling on the Commissioners of the COMELEC to vacate their posts in view of the serious damage the “Gloria Tapes” issue has done to their credibility and integrity. They must be reminded that they are bound to perform their duties honestly, faithfully, and in such a manner as to be above suspicion of irregularities — a standard they can no longer meet in the current situation.
It must be emphasized that, contrary to the claims in some quarters, resignation is constitutional. Voluntary relinquishment is one of the constitutionally recognized means by which the Presidency can be vacated. [Article VII, Section 8] Likewise, calling for the President to step down is perfectly in accordance with the exercise of the constitutional right to free speech, and cannot be abridged through prior restraint or threat of subsequent punishment. (Article III, Section 4) We are constrained to reiterate this point in the wake of the dire warnings and threats of prosecution that have been made by the Department of Justice.
We make these statements on the basis of what we believe the Constitution, the laws, and public interest prescribe. We do so pursuant to our appreciation of what our responsibilities demand.
July 4, 2005
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