Friday, August 26, 2005

PAL Reloaded

PAL firms up domestic re-fleeting plan
Inquirer News Service

PHILIPPINE Airlines (PAL) has firmed up its plan to upgrade 13 of its aircraft for domestic flights after signing a contract to lease three more Airbus A-320 planes, PAL president Jaime Bautista said Thursday.

With the contract, PAL will have six leased A-320s, the last of which will arrive in February, Bautista said.

It has 30 planes for local and international flights.

PAL will spend about $65 million to modernize its domestic fleet, he said, explaining that the amount would cover the spare parts provisioning required by the leasing company.

"We have a commitment already with a leasing company," told the Inquirer after PAL's annual meeting of stockholders Thursday. "Between now and 2008, we will be modernizing our domestic fleet with new leases of the same type of aircraft."

With the economic outlook uncertain because of surging petroleum prices, PAL, controlled by tobacco tycoon Lucio Tan, has thought it wise to enter into five-year leasing agreements instead of buying new planes, Bautista said.

PAL's competitor Cebu Air Pacific, controlled by the family of diversified tycoon John Gokongwei, has bought 12 new Airbus 319 planes for $500 million. It has also leased two new A-320s for major domestic routes, such as between Manila and Cebu City and between Manila and Davao City. The A-319s will be arriving between September this year and early 2007.

Bautista said use of newer planes would allow a faster turnaround time, which is essential in improving PAL's on-time performance.

PAL has to set aside about $5 million for the spare parts provisioning of each aircraft, Bautista said. The leasing company usually requires a provisioning of 10 percent of the value of an aircraft, which is about $40 million.

PAL reported a 73-percent increase in its net income in the April-June first quarter of its fiscal year at $27.5 million (roughly P1.5 billion), against $15.92 million in the same period of the previous fiscal year.

The April-June profit exceeded the full-year profit of about P1.2 billion in the previous fiscal year ended March 2005. Clarissa S. Batino, with


Passion For Reason : Juridical guerrilla warfare

Raul Pangalangan
Inquirer News Service

THE BEST way to kill the impeachment complaint is to wear out the people. No need to show that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is innocent. Just tire the sovereign people, bore them, make them indifferent to whether or not she is guilty. Reduce Gloriagate from a debate about principles to a wager on technicalities bereft of moral content. That is the peril of the vote by the House of Representatives' justice committee to focus first on "prejudicial questions." To paraphrase Sun Tzu, war is like fire. Rather than putting it out, let it burn itself out.

Three impeachment complaints have been filed against President Arroyo, the first, filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano, apparently the weakest. The next step, under the Constitution, is for the proper congressional committee to say whether the complaints are sufficient in form and substance.

However, the Constitution also says: "No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year." Pro-Arroyo congressmen say that the committee must first settle the "prejudicial" issue of whether the Lozano complaint has triggered off the one-year bar and, if yes, whether it can be supplemented by the stronger complaint drafted by opposition lawyers. Their goal, obviously, is to lock in the vulnerable Lozano version and knock out the high-octane opposition draft.

The Supreme Court has laid down the controlling doctrine. In Francisco v. House of Representatives, the Court cited the one-year bar and threw out a second impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Hilario Davide. The anti-Davide forces invoked Rules 16/17 of the impeachment procedure adopted by Congress, which says that "impeachment proceedings [are] deemed initiated" only after the justice committee has acted on the complaint; by that rule, the first complaint couldn't have activated the one-year rule. The Court thus struck down Rules 16/17 as unconstitutional and pegged the triggering moment much earlier: when the complaint is filed and referred to the justice committee.

Citing one of the founding fathers of the 1987 Constitution, the Court said: "Father [Joaquin] Bernas further explains: The 'impeachment proceeding' is not initiated when the complaint is transmitted to the Senate for trial [nor] when the House deliberates on the resolution passed on to it by the Committee. ... Rather, the proceeding is initiated or begins when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the Committee on Justice for action. This is the initiating step which triggers the series of steps that follow." Pro-Arroyo congressmen now claim that Lozano has tripped the constitutional switch.

But, as Rep. Francis Escudero said at a forum in the University of the Philippines, opposition legislators have anticipated this, and deftly packaged their complaint so that it can either "stand alone" as an independent complaint or merely supplement Lozano's.

There is no technical bar to a supplement. I have heard forced analogies to judicial process, both civil and criminal, all of them inapt to the "sui generis" ("class by itself") nature of impeachment proceedings. The current procedural rules on impeachment are silent on supplements. Therefore, to hinder the other complaints is an exercise of discretion. Our legislators must not wash their hands through technicalities, and be candid enough to confess that they are voting their true selves.

This gap ("lacuna") in the rules beckons us to turn to the "intent of the framers." Note the following exchange in the Constitutional Commission when they drafted the one-year bar.

Commissioner Villacorta: "Does this mean that even if evidence is discovered to support another charge ... a second ... proceeding cannot be initiated [within] one year? ... The intention may be to protect the public official from undue harassment. [But] is this not undue limitation on the accountability of public officers?"

Commissioner Romulo: "Yes, the intention here really is to limit. This is not only to protect public officials ... from harassment but also to allow the [Congress] to do its work, which is lawmaking. Impeachment proceedings take a lot of time."

Hearing the three complaints together will advance this constitutional intent -- no undue "harassment" of the respondent, or additional work for Congress.

But in addition, Rep. Teodoro Locsin shows that there is in fact a proper technical way to construe the three complaints. Congressional time is not normal people's time, he said. Congress can simply stop the clock and by parliamentary fiat freeze time, and the record will not show that they actually debated past midnight. Now by such reckoning, time stood still while Congress was on its constitutionally mandated one-month break. That Lozano filed first in that twilight zone is of no consequence.

Which brings us back to the controlling moment in Francisco, namely, July 25, when Congress re-convened, the "session day" when Speaker Jose de Venecia endorsed the complaints to the justice committee, simultaneously at 11:20 a.m. (recorded in the official Journal). Therefore, Francisco will hold that none of the complaints could have blocked off the others.

What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. That, shorn of fancy lawyer talk, is one big part of the rule of law. The justices read the one-year bar liberally in favor of the "accused." This gave solace to the Chief Justice, who was worthy, but now it purportedly gives safe haven to President Arroyo, who is not. The solution is not to fudge what the Court said in Francisco, but to carry out our compelling intuitions through the disciplined craft of the law, and in Unger's words, "find the mind's opportunity in the heart's revenge." Remember Sun Tzu: Take away the energy of the enemy, take away their heart.