Thursday, April 19, 2007

Executive Order 608: Cover-up Crimes Against The Filipino People

Leakage of ‘sensitive’ documents plugged to control cover-up ops

Gloria tightens gag order, issues EO 608


By Sherwin C. Olaes

Daily Tribune 04/20/2007

In a bid to make it more difficult for an opposition-dominated Senate to dig deeper into any issue that would require Malacañang to produce, through a Senate summons, classified information during Senate investigations and hearings, President Arroyo enhanced her gag order, Memorandum Circular 108, by complementing it with a newly signed Executive Order (EO) 608 that establishes a national security clearance system for government personnel with access to classified information.

At the same time, the EO was said to have been created by Mrs. Arroyo to plug any and all leaks, and deny her political foes the opportunity to get hold of these “sensitive documents” that may prove damaging to her and her presidency.

The media have also been the recipients of leaked information that has, however, preempted certain illegal and unconstitutional plans designed by the Palace to place the country under a virtual martial law regime.

The Tribune, having obtained a leaked document on the plan of Mrs. Arroyo to impose emergency rule in 2006 that called for the takeover of the media and the arrests of political dissenters, exposed this.

Malacañang denied there was such plan, but a few months later, Proclamation 1017, a copy of the Marcos martial law decree, was imposed, and the country was placed under a state of From page 1

emergency, where the Tribune was illegally raided and taken over by the state’s security forces.

Palace sources, who asked not to be identified, told the Tribune that the new EO was created to facilitate “cover-up” operations of whatever illegal acts that may have been committed, whenever needed.

It will be recalled that Mrs. Arroyo has refused to make the Mayuga Report, which delved into the Hello Garci electoral fraud pertaining to charges of certain military generals having actively participated in the electoral fraud to ensure her fraudulent presidential victory in 2004. She claimed that this could not be released, being a matter of “national security.”

Palace sources also said that EO 608 was designed to bar political foes or their groups from succeeding in obtaining “sensitive documents” that would be leaked to them by some Palace hands.

The EO content points to this.

It says: “Whereas the government is always at constant risk of being infiltrated by a group or individual for a purpose which is inimical to national interest, these groups or individuals rely on infiltrating and or developing contacts within the bureaucracy to be their source of intelligence and other relevant information, particularly on classified or sensitive information and materials in order to accomplish their unlawful objectives.”

The President, in the same EO states that any “unauthorized disclosure, sharing, publication or use of the information” contained in certain classified documents shall be considered a grave offense and shall be punishable in accordance with civil service rules and regulation.

The EO added that the filing of an administrative case against an erring personnel does not preclude the filing of any other appropriate criminal case against the accused security officer.

Malacañang officials who requested anonymity told the Tribune that the President, having learned her lesson, does not want to see a repeat of any leakage of sensitive information that occurred a year after the 2004 presidential polls, where documents showing the illegal disbursement of the P3 billion fertilizer funds scam for purposes other than funding agriculture projects and instead diverting the funds into Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign coffers in aid of her electoral victory, were obtained by the political opposition and the media.

The information leaked was that Department of Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, said to be the bagman of the presidential couple, obtained the release of some P780 million in fertilizers funds which was diverted into the pockets of congressmen-allies for their campaign expenses, plus more funds to buy votes for Mrs. Arroyo’s candidacy.

There was also the case of the wiretapped conversations between the then Commission on Election commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano and the President herself that focused on the cheating operations that had to be done to make her have a 1 million vote lead over the opposition presidential candidate, Fernando Poe Jr.

The Hello Garci tape was leaked by an agent of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp) and found its way to forces identified with groups opposed to Mrs. Arroyo.

The Hello Garci expose led to the near collapse of her presidency and government in July 2005.

“If before, members of the opposition lawmakers such as Sen. (Panfilo) Ping Lacson can easily obtain sensitive information damning to the Arroyo government, it would no longer be possible or as easy today especially after the President came up with this EO,” the Palace official informed the Tribune.

But Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, in a chance interview, defended the President’s issuance of EO 608, shooting down this early speculations and observations from the political opposition that this EO was created specifically to deny groups critical of Mrs. Arroyo and her government any and all access to these “sensitive documents” which are claimed to be national security concerns.

“When we deal with matters of security, all of us must be responsible enough in handling such information—and disinformation. And when I say ‘responsible enough’, we should not just throw anything against the administration and use the sensitive information (against the Arroyo administration). So they (opposition) should be discerning enough to know what are matters of national security especially that which pertain to the safety of our people and that’s the reason we are now quite strict in handling security matters,” Ermita pointed out.

Ermita also warned the opposition not to accuse the President for coming out with EO 608 in a bid to cover up any illegal acts.

“We are challenging the opposition to come out with strong evidence (of any illegal offense committed by Malacañang)and they (opposition) can always bring that to the proper court, instead of insinuating that this EO is to be used to cover up anything. And everything should be done in a very transparent manner, especially when this has to deal in the government projects such as biddings etc. That is hardly the purpose of the EO,” Ermita stressed.

EO 608 entails the establishment of a uniformed Security Clearance System that is national in scope to cover all government personnel who by reason of their function or their office have access to classified information.

Under Section 1, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales would be given a major role to approve or reject the institutionalized security clearance procedures submitted to him by all heads of government offices that have access to classified matters.

Gonzales will be vested with the power to conduct a comprehensive background investigation on all government agencies personnel who by reason of their employment, have access to classified information.

“It is only after passing the said security clearance procedure that the department can issue an Interim Security Clearance (ISC) in favor of said employee. Only the head of the department, agency or office concerned or their designated representative can issue the Interim Security Clearance,” the EO states.

The heads of department are also tasked to designate a security officer who shall assume full responsibility for holding classified information, wherein the personnel granted ISC will not be allowed to disclose, share, publish or use the information contained in the classified documents.

Palace sources pointed out that the EO is all-encompassing, and covers all the departments in government, and with this EO, it will now be difficult for the Congress to demand that documents from their department necessary to be submitted for the hearings.

The security officer detailed by certain department heads that would secure classified information is also required to submit his name to the office of Gonzales wherein the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Nica) on its own, can conduct background investigation on the certain personnel.

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