What will save our cash-strapped nation from corruption-riddled pork barrel and delay its march toward Liberal dictatorship?
It will be the last vestiges of our mongrel Republican system. Officially– and according to the 1987 Constitution– the Philippines is a Republican-Democratic state.
One of the original features of Republicanism is the principle of separation of powers. The established political institutions of this principle consist of the triumvirate system of three governmental branches (e.g., the executive, legislative and judiciary), each possesses delimited, well-defined powers. Under a system of representative Republic (which is not a Democracy), the powers of these three co-equal branches must be objectively defined and delimited according to the principle of Individual Rights. The purpose of a written Constitution is not to create or invent rights, but to recognize and protect their existence.
The most important function of the separation of powers doctrine is to guarantee and support a system of checks and balances. Since the co-equal three branches of government possess (not share) strictly limited powers, the system prohibits one branch from gaining too much political power to the disadvantage of its co-equal branches. For instance, the Executive Office or the Presidency cannot simply bypass the powers of the Legislature by creating and passing major laws (via Executive Orders). In turn, the Legislative branch (composed of the House and Senate) cannot pass laws that contravene the provisions of the Constitution, or abrogate the powers already possessed by its co-equal branches.
On the other hand, the Judiciary is not only empowered to settle legal disputes; it also has the power to invalidate unconstitutional laws via its Judicial Review authority. Thus, under a truly Republican system, the President cannot turn the legislature into a rubber stamp Congress by bribing its members with public money. The President’s power to bribe– or to abuse taxpayers’ money– in order to control political power constitutes TREASON against the principles of Republicanism.
But as they say, political systems are made and implemented by imperfect, fallible human beings who may have been motivated by political ambitions, flawed ideologies, lack of education, personal interests, or lack of political wisdom.
In 1986, the Cory Aquino regime renewed our system of government by enacting the 1987 Constitution that retains the country’s 60-40 protectionist laws and continues to increase the size of our bloated Welfare State. Some of our retained protectionist policies include:
- the ban on foreigners from owning lands
- the 60-40 ownership arrangement favoring Filipinos
- the ban on foreign professionals from practicing their respective professions in the country
- the ban on foreign investors to join our media industry
- other restrictions (negative list) in our foreign investment laws
Pork barrel politics was also institutionalized during the term of former President Cory Aquino, the current president’s mother. Pork barrel disbursement officially started in 1989 following the creation of the Mindanao Development Fund and Visayas Development Fund, which were given pork appropriations of P480-million and P280-million, respectively.
Like all corrupt-prone, extra-constitutional political practices, the country’s pork barrel system was blatantly abused by both the executive office and the legislature, its intended political beneficiaries, whereas its yearly appropriations grew with our ever-expanding Welfare State. During its first decade of application, pork money was used by our lawmakers to remain in power and to establish political dynasties by bribing their constituents with public money. The overall result is that pork barrel politics was used and abused by corrupt politicians to keep and further expand the country’s 21st Century Plantation.
During its second decade of implementation, pork barrel was not merely used by its lawmaking beneficiaries to enrich themselves; it also found its way through a more complex, more evil form of corruption wherein public/elected officials and private corporatists, like the Napoleses of the world, connived with each other to steal from public coffers. Like Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said, if in the past public money was used to build and fund sub-standard roads and projects, today pork money goes directly into the deep pockets of corrupt government officials (lawmakers and Implementing Agencies) and their private co-conspirators.
However, there’s one important political lesson we can learn from the ongoing pork barrel issue.
Pork barrel can be used by any dominant political party to gain and control political power. Also, it can be abused by any sitting president to destroy the remaining strength of our semi-Republican principles, namely, separation of powers, division of powers, and checks and balances.
For example, embattled Senator Jinggoy Estrada was forced to expose the alleged bribery scam perpetrated by the B.S. Aquino regime to secure the conviction of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona. Estrada’s allegation supports my argument that the impeachment, and subsequent conviction, of Corona was engineered by the current administration to weaken judicial independence and to compromise the powers of the Judiciary.
Now it appears that B.S. Aquino was not only hell-bent on destroying judicial independence; the president has also been plotting to control both the House and the Senate by bribing their corrupt members, or his party-mates, with Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds, another form of pork barrel that Malacañang controls.
Critics said the President’s controversial DAP is unconstitutional, as it allows the corrupt Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to pool government money and use them for other purposes.
In my humble opinion, B.S. Aquino’s new pork barrel is not only unconstitutional but also improper and immoral because it can be used– or is now being used– to destroy our remaining Republican principles that have been shielding this semi-socialist country from political dictatorship.
Philippine history has it that dictator Ferdinand Marcos worked to control Congress before his term expired in 1973. The Marcosian rubber stamp Congress created and passed the 1973 Constitution that replaced the country’s so-called “presidential” system with a parliamentary form of government, which allowed Marcos to remain in power beyond 1973. The Marcosian dictatorship tells us a good lesson that a regime-controlled parliament also means a controlled judiciary.
Since his first year in office, B.S. Aquino has been waging war on our remaining Republican principles by trying to tighten his grip on the legislature. Perhaps the President and his minions understood that the best way to gain and establish absolute– or near-absolute– power is to put both the House and the Senate under their presidential control, and this can be done by simply bribing lawmakers with public money.
Any unholy political alliance between the Executive branch and the Legislative branch means judicial independence is at risk of being bullied or compromised. This is exactly what the President did when he ordered the impeachment, and then allegedly secured the conviction, of Corona. Remember that the president’s party, the Liberal Party, controls both the House and the Senate. This means that they can easily threaten “stubborn old men” in the Supreme Court with impeachment.
Since B.S. Aquino controls the entire Legislature, the fate, the rights, and the future of the Filipino people now lie in at least one branch of government: the JUDICIARY!
The President’s political mantra: “Tuwid na daan”. His political signboard reads: “FORWARD!”
Click HERE to know what FORWARD means…
The question is: Will our Supreme Court justices defend judicial independence and save our nation from creeping Liberal Fascism?
Thankfully one of its members, Supreme Court senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, said yesterday that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA) that was approved by Congress and signed by the president is unconstitutional.
During the oral arguments on the petitions questioning the legality of lawmakers’ pork barrel, Carpio declared that the pork barrel in “is facially unconstitutional” even without a COA report.
“You do not need a COA report,” he repeatedly said during the hearing on Tuesday. “The 2013 provision on PDAF is riddled with unconstitutionality.”
He added that the pork barrel system in the 2013 GAA violates the Constitution because it allows the President and Congress to share powers.
Carpio said, under the 2013 GAA that includes PDAF, Cabinet secretaries and congressional committees are allowed to realign funds, and projects are identified by legislators themselves.
“That power (to realign funds) cannot be delegated (to the Cabinet). This power to realign is unconstitutional,” he said.
“When the Constitution says all appropriations shall emanate from the House, it has to be acting as a body, it cannot be one legislator or a committee,” Carpio said. “A legislator or a House Committee is not Congress.”
He believes PDAF has been institutionalized even if it is illegal.
Carpio’s arguments, which are consistent with Republican doctrines, state that the PDAF in the 2013 GAA is unconstitutional because of the following:
- Non-delegation doctrine, which is imposed by or part of separation of powers principle.
- Non-sharing of powers between the Executive branch and Legislative branch. Again, this is part of the Republican separation of powers and division of powers.
- Division of powers. Under a strict Republican system, the power of the purse belongs only to Congress– it can neither be delegated nor realligned. Also, the President cannot seize it.
The ongoing political friction between the Judiciary and the united Executive-Legislature may precipitate a political deadlock, which may result in our own version of partial government shutdown. Federal government shutdown in the United States was caused by legislative budget gridlock (between Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate) over President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. In the Philippines, a partial shutdown may be triggered by the Court’s possible nullification of B.S. Aquino’s pork barrel, a situation that might render the president’s pet projects and our lawmakers’ deep pockets totally UNFUNDED.
The Court’s possible decision to declare the President’s pork barrel in the budget law as unconstitutional may not only affect the ruling party’s programs and political ambitions; it may also ignite a bitter political friction between the SC and the administration.
To save this nation from B.S. Aquino’s creeping political fascism, the Judiciary needs to fight for judicial independence and to keep the last vestiges of our Republican principles.
This issue reminds me of a parliamentary dum-dum’s hilarious pseudo-political commentary, which is as follows:
Did this politically naif parliamentarist named Orion Dumdum just say so-called presidential “gridlock” allowed the passage of pork barrel, which caused what he calls “pork fiasco” in the country?
Everything Dumdum said contradicts political reality and history. It was in fact the gridlock-LESS legislature of Corazon Aquino that brought us this pork mess in 1989! It’s high time for this political moron to read Philippine history!
Corazon Aquino, who has hugely popular, controlled the two chambers of Congress. Today, her son, president B.S. Aquino, also controls both the upper and lower House of the Legislature.
This is why Sen. Santiago said: B.S. Aquino “cannot be impeached in practice because he controls the House and the Senate.”
Now let me respond to Orion’s utterly idiotic, clueless Facebook post with the following infographic:
I say, aral-aral din ‘pag may time para hindi tanga at bopols! 😉