executive & legislative privilege, america & mamasapano

it was amazing, and dismaying, how meekly and quickly senator ralph recto stopped with the questions re the extent of american involvement in mamasapano.  just when it was getting interesting.  general napeñas was about to tell us about the drones.

“Your honor, excuse me. May I interject? May I just remind the officer here that he’s already dwelling on matters of diplomatic relations and military intelligence…?” (DOJ Sec) De Lima asked.

Senator Grace Poe, who is presiding over the hearing, agreed that they should be “very careful” in discussing the particulars in a public hearing.

Recto acceded and did not raise further questions.

not a peep of an objection, kahit pabalat-bunga, kahit as a matter of form man lang.

it’s all about “executive privilege.” historically, it’s the executive branch that invokes it to protect military, diplomatic, or national security secrets.  and usually, the legislative branch seriously objects and argues to make public whatever is being kept hidden, even going to the supreme court to settle the issue.

read UST Law Review’s The Doctrime of Executive Privilege by Charmaine Joy R. Savellano.

To be sure, executive privilege is not without limits. One of the recognized limitations is that executive privilege must be invoked only for the “most compelling reasons” such as the need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets. Moreover, there is a need to balance other interests which might be affected whenever executive privilege is asserted. The Court stressed that “when the privilege depends solely on the broad, undifferentiated claim of public interest in the confidentiality of such conversations, a confrontation with other values arises.”

…From watching over the developments of the doctrine of executive privilege, an interesting observation on the pattern or cycle for the assertion of executive privilege, thus: There is an underlying dynamic in most claims of privilege. In the initial stages, the executive has a virtual monopoly of information on the case so a temptation exists to overuse claims of privilege. When controversy persists, however, the administration’s advantages wane. The public assumes dark deeds are being covered up. As informants and information slowly accumulate, politics tends to force executive revelations. The presidency loses on the core issue and reveals the requested information, but looks bad in rejecting candor from the beginning. At the same time, the result is often a Pyrrhic victory for Congress or the courts that engenders a loss of public confidence in all political institutions. Aware of this history and politically attuned, both sides usually strive for some reasonable outcome.

… executive privilege is not a simple concept, not quite. It is rather an intricate concept. Its application can pose myriad of complexities, it is far from being trouble-free. First, because the phrase “executive privilege” is nowhere to be found in the U.S. Constitution and the Philippine Constitution, as well. Second, the public and the other branches have the right to know what is going on in the executive branch. And finally, history would show that Presidents have abused executive privilege to cover-up wrongdoings.

the senate’s abject submission to the claimed confidentiality of US involvement in mamasapano, presumably in deference to american interests, is a historic low for nation.  bad enough that the executive department continues to get away with allowing the foreign military presence without the advantage / benefit of formal treaties AND without sustained opposition from the legislative branch.

worse, now — now that finally hindi na maitatanggi, partly revealed na, ang kinalaman ng america sa mamasapano — we not only have to deal with executive privilege, meron na ring legislative privilege.  congress has clearly taken the side of the president, both houses are turning a deaf ear to the public clamor for the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the president’s, and america’s, hand in mamasapano, and heeding instead the president’s marching orders (or is it advice) to move on, pass the BBL asap.

wala na talagang check-and-balance.  so much for the promise of grace poe. 


  1. I dont understand your objection. its a public hearing, and the answer has repercussions on national security. its not a secret between branches. its a secret between the government and the broader public.

    • what repercussions on national security exactly if it were confirmed, for instance, that they were watching the unfolding of mamasapano battles in real time via drones? as if naman the whole world does not already know about these drones. parang pinoy na lang ang walang alam.

      • angela, reading the newstory,the context is that the officer was about to divulge the full info of US-RP cooperation.

        that has a lot of operational detail which, u wanted, you could be aware of and guard against.

        now, if it were a simple question such as “were drones used in the operation?” that might have merited a simple yes or no.

        but the whole scope of the planning and source of intelligence? thats alot to divulge.

  2. All states have their secrets, as it keeps enemies guessing and good intelligence hidden and people in the defense/security business safe. Only idealists with no chance of getting blood on their hands argue to put that information into the public view. Why do we want the Philippines to blunder loudly and indiscriminately across the global scene where terrorists roam, offending allies and telling enemies how to win?

  3. (Walden Bello ) complimented the Inquirer for coming up with three facts about the Mamasapano mission:
    –US drones pinpointed Marwan’s hiding place, guided the Filipino commandos to it, and provided real-time management by the SAF command away from the battlefield.
    –American advisers were the ones who vetoed informing top officials of the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front of the planned raid on the grounds that news of the action would be leaked to Marwan.
    –The Americans vetoed the Philippine government’s plan of a fused team of the Seaborne Unit and the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and instead use the US Navy Seals-trained Seaborne to seize the Malaysian terrorist with the QRF limited to extraction duty.