Stupidly stubborn

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By Tibs Palasan, Jr

Spark of Law

Friday, July 18, 2014


DON’T get me wrong. I am his ardent supporter. He is like a Quixote fighting the windmill of corruption. But unlike the literary figure PNoy is getting inroads in his war against corruption.

Fighting corruption is one singular achievement that will define his presidency. At least, even if he is not entirely successful, the indictment of big-names serves as a warning that “corruption does not pay.”

But having received criticisms for the Supreme Court voiding the Development Acceleration Program, an alias for pork barrel, PNoy has obviously panicked. His recent address to the nation either reveals the character flaw of the man, or his failure to grasp the workings of government.

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It is said that PNoy is stupidly stubborn, if I may be excused with the acerbic description of him. Well, we elected a man, and not a saint. The people voted him into power, with his pluses and minuses. The people have weighed him in the polls, and yet opted to elect him.

I will not dwell into the “stupidly stubborn” trait of the man. That is something better addressed to psychologist, or spiritual adviser. I am incompetent to address the issue of personal traits.

After listening to his address to the nation, supposedly to defend DAP, there is a gripping sense that the man may have failed to fully grasp the democratic set-up, and the concept of rule of law.

It does not take a lawyer to understand the concepts of separation of powers, judicial supremacy, and the rule of law.

Here, as a lawyer, I may be of help to let PNoy understand these concepts.

The power of the purse, that authority to approve the annual budget for government expenditures is lodged with the Congress. When the General Appropriations Act is approved, the president must abide by it. It cannot wantonly disregard the provisions of the appropriations act, and juggle funds. That makes the power of the purse an empty exercise of a constitutional mandate.

PNoy committed “cross-border transfers,” to borrow the language of the Supreme Court. Upon requests of the lower house and the Commission On Audit, he diverted funds from the executive to these bodies. For one, this is an act of appropriation without the proper legislative act. Second, this in itself is tinkering with the independence of the Congress and COA.

How can the lower house and COA be independent if their funds are sourced from their president?

This is a “deadly sin,” an unforgivable transgression by PNoy. There is not only usurpation of the power of the purse, but there is indirect breach of the concept of separation of powers.

The whole brouhaha could have ended there, except that PNoy wielded the sword against the sitting justices who have nothing but the pen and the incisive minds.

PNoy threatens the Supreme Court with a clash that has to be resolved by the third party which is the Congress. Taking a cue from his speech, his allies in Congress are now proposing to cut the bloodstream of the Supreme Court by getting rid of the Judicial Development Fund.

Alright, let PNoy file his motion for reconsideration. That is the law. For PNoy to declare in national television that the Supreme Court is wrong is disrespect not only to the justices but to the rule of law. For him to challenge the Supreme Court, with his veiled threats of impeachment, this is an entirely new ballgame.

Right or wrong, judicial supremacy requires that the decisions of the Supreme Court must be respected. This is a mandate in the 1987 Constitution. If PNoy is uneasy with this concept, then he should summon his mother who led the ratification of that constitution.

PNoy should be wondering where his sympathizers in the Supreme Court are. DAP was struck down with overwhelming vote of 13-0. Even Justice Carpio not only concurred with the decision but wrote a separate opinion detailing how DAP violated the constitution.

After all is said, this piece of unsolicited advice is futile. PNoy has legal experts who must have articulated the points raised here. If he did not listen to his legal experts, how could he listen to me.

“Stupidly stubborn,” that is the trait of the man. Perhaps, we need to call Cardinal Tagle for spiritual counsel.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 18, 2014.

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