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Home Columns Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. Palace Should Not Invoke Executive Privilege on Japan-RP Trade Treaty, which Senate Ratifed on Oct9
Palace Should Not Invoke Executive Privilege on Japan-RP Trade Treaty, which Senate Ratifed on Oct9 PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - This Week With Nene Pimentel
Sunday, 20 July 2008 03:36

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said Malacañang should be transparent in revealing the facts behind the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement and the North Rail Project instead of trying to withhold information by invoking the executive privilege of the Office of the President (OP).

 

Senator Pimentel said the distasteful habit of Malacañang to suppress information related to projects or transactions being reviewed or investigated by the Senate is only inflaming the feeling of distrust, frustration and alienation among the people as shown in the minus-38 public satisfaction rating for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the second quarter of 2008 survey of the Social Weather Stations.

 

“Any attempt on the part of the Palace to conceal documents and information related to the two controversial deals will only reinforce the allegation that the government fell short of its duty to protect national interest during the negotiations with Japan on the trade treaty and with China on the four-year old but now suspended railway project,” the minority leader said.

 

The OP is committing a costly mistake by imposing a blackout on classified documents that are necessary for understanding and resolving purportedly legal infirmities and terms and conditions of the trade treaty that are unfair and disadvantageous to the Philippines, as claimed by the administration’s legislative ally, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the committee on foreign relations.

He brushed off the claim that the executive branch scored a legal victory when the Supreme Court recently ruled that Malacañang could not be compelled to reveal confidential documents that were used during the negotiations for the JPEPA conducted by Philippine and Japanese officials by virtue of executive privilege.

 

Senator Pimentel said it would be senseless to insist on secrecy over these documents on the pretense of safeguarding the confidentiality of diplomatic negotiations because such attitude does not help in persuading the senators to ratify the bilateral treaty.

 

Besides, he said such supposedly classified documents or diplomatic discussions can be disclosed during closed-door or executive sessions of the Senate thereby avoiding any possibility of impairing national interest or security.

 

Mr. Pimentel warned that the Palace would be committing a costly mistake by imposing a blackout on such classified documents which may be necessary for understanding and resolving purportedly legal infirmities and terms and conditions of the trade treaty that are unfair and disadvantageous to the Philippines, as claimed by the administration’s legislative ally, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the committee on foreign relations.

 

Reacting to Malacañang’s statement that it will not hesitate to invoke executive privilege as the Senate moves to reinvestigate the North Rail Project, Senator Pimentel said such posture is ludicrous in the face of the acute troubles that are hounding the $503-million railway project.

 

He said the Palace owes it to the people to tell them about the real status and background of the project in the face of reports that the contractor, China National Machineries and Equipment Group, has suspended civil works pending the government’s approval of an additional $299-million funding.

 

The OP’s says that it will not hesitate to invoke executive privilege as the Senate moves to reinvestigate the North Rail Project. Senator Pimentel says such posture is ludicrous in the face of the acute troubles that are hounding the $503-million railway project.

The first phase of the NRP, a 32-kilometer stretch from Caloocan to Malolos, was originally funded by a $400-million loan from China’s Eximbank and $103-million counterpart funding from the government.

 

Senator Pimentel stressed that the government should decide whether to allow the CNMEG to undertake the project under patently unacceptable-and-onerous conditions or to simply terminate the contract with the Chinese engineering firm.

 

He lamented that the Arroyo government signed the agreement with China on the NRP in 2004 despite terms and conditions that were not only grossly disadvantageous to the Philippines but also patently illegal and violative of the country’s procurement-and- infrastructure laws.

 

These unacceptable terms included: 1. the lending institution, China’s Export-Import Bank was given the right to award NRP to a company of its choice without the benefit of public bidding; 2. The project was awarded without first requiring the contractor to submit a feasibility study or design of the railway system; 3. The (Chinese) Eximbank was allowed to directly pay the contractor out of the proceeds of the loan without the need to release the money to the Philippine government; and 4. Disputes arising from the contract would be resolved in a Chinese court under Chinese laws.

 

“It is the lack of transparency the Arroyo government which is to blame why the North Rail Project is mired in acute troubles. The fate of the project is now uncertain. The CNMEG is asking for additional funding, and yet it has not even started actual construction of the railway system about four years after the project agreement was signed,” he said. # # #



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Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2008 13:48
 

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