Betrayal of public trust

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


BETRAYAL of public trust is becoming a cliché. Although PNoy's ratings are falling, he is still the most popular and trusted president of the post-Marcosian times.

In a democracy, what we want is a vibrant, coherent opposition to the current government. This constitutes the national conversation, the standard of which has declined markedly recently. We hear from some that PNoy should be impeached. Nonsense! The Supreme Court has simply defined some boundaries of presidential prerogative.

We need to hear from PNoy's opponents as to what they would do if they were in office. In what way would their performance be better than PNoy's?

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The relationship, if any, between an incomplete or otherwise inaccurate statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) and betrayal of public trust is tenuous. "It all depends" many of us would say.

In the case of former Chief Justice Corona, he and his family were shown to own a number of undeclared condominiums acquired by public funds from unexplained sources. Senator-judges decided by a 20-3 majority to find that this was sufficient to find Corona guilty of betraying public trust. Majority public opinion concurred, partly because Corona's defense was virtually non-existent.

Corona may not have been impeached, if his Supreme Court (SC) had not knocked back PNoy's Executive Order No. 1 establishing a Truth Commission. This was widely interpreted to be a mechanism to find former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) guilty of plunder. The SC ruled that it is unconstitutional to single out GMA alone. GMA probably knew that a plunder case would be coming, which was why she unconstitutionally (it broke the midnight appointments' rule) appointed Corona in the first place.

Once Corona was removed from office, PNoy was forced to appoint a new Chief Justice (CJ). He appointed Maria Lourdes Sereno who, all being well, will have an 18 year term (the Constitution specifies that the CJ will hold office until reaching the age of 70).

PNoy may now have regrets about the Sereno appointment but we do not. Off to a slow start due partly to Associate Justice Carpio's carping that she has seemingly engendered a healthily collegiate atmosphere within the Supreme Court. This, of course is a major function of the CJ who is "primus inter pares" (first amongst equals) and not an autocratic boss.

One commentator criticizes the SC's resolution on the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP) by calling the SC's interpretation of the Constitution to be "literalist." What's wrong with that? The framers of the Constitution did not set out to create a Constitution filled with ambiguity.

We need a more articulate opposition.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 30, 2014.

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