Should we all pray for his early reward in Heaven? – COLUMN: OPINION ON PAGE ONE By Francisco Tatad –
EXECUTIVE over-reach smashed the constitutional order when then President B.S. Aquino 3rd siphoned off P200 billion, more or less, from the General Appropriations Fund to create the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) without the knowedge and consent of Congress in order to finance questionable political projects, and to bribe congressmen and senators to impeach and remove the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on a highly debatable offense.
Aquino’s crime, unpunished until now, has managed to live on, with the Ombudsman filing charges against him and his former budget secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, allegedly the real DAP “brains.” But the charge filed by the outgoing Aquino-appointed Ombudsman has been criticized as deliberately intended to save the two respondents from the criminal punishment they deserve. They should have been indicted for plunder, say some criminal lawyers; they were charged with “usurpation of legislative authority” instead. Which is nearly equivalent to a parking ticket.
Aquino vs DU30
But Aquino’s over-reach has now become mere child’s play beside President Rodrigo Duterte’s constitutional over-reach. Where Aquino corrupted Congress to remove an inflexible Chief Justice, whose most serious offense was to rule against Cory Cojuangco Aquino’s family, and in favor of the sugar plantation workers, in the Hacienda Luisita case, DU30 intimidated the judiciary, Congress, the mass media, business, labor and professional sectors, and everybody else, with his campaign of terror, which has left thousands of alleged drug suspects killed in their homes and on the streets.
Aquino seduced 188 congressmen to sign the impeachment complaint against Corona without reading the document, and bribed 19 out of the 20 senators who voted for conviction and removal, even after the prosecution had withdrawn five of the original eight charges for lack of evidence, and focused on but one of the remaining three charges, which some lawyers thought did not constitute an impeachable offense. Each of the 19 received an average of P50 million, although some specially favored ones got as much as P100 million. Only three senators —the late Miriam Defensor Santiago, the late Joker Arroyo and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.— upheld Corona’s innocence.
Corona died not long after his unjust removal. But where Aquino destroyed the late Chief Justice’s life and honor, DU30 wrecked the Constitution and the entire Supreme Court when he demanded, in gross violation of the separation of powers, that the justices remove Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on their own, in total disregard of the Constitution, which does not give the court or the justices the power to remove anyone of their peers, who is an impeachable official.
Like the President, the Vice President, other members of the Supreme Court, members of the Constitutional Commissions and the Ombudsman, the Chief Justice or any Supreme Court justice for that matter may be removed only by death, permanent disability, resignation, or impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.
But upon DU30’s claim that Sereno was his “enemy” who should be removed, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition against her, and the justices gave it due course.
For the strangest of reasons, Sereno accepted the court’s unlawful jurisdiction, instead of completely rejecting it.
By a vote of eight to six, the justices declared her 2012 appointment null and void ab initio. It was too late to reject the court’s jurisdiction and its ruling, so Sereno filed a motion for reconsideration, thereby fortifying the court’s unlawful jurisdiction on her. They ruled against her with finality on June 19.
In removing the Chief Justice without any authority from the Constitution, the justices effectively de-legitimized the court’s constitutional existence. By exercising a power that has no basis in the Constitution, and which they merely conferred upon themselves, the justices unilaterally and arbitrarily replaced the court with their individual selves. The result is not only a Supreme Court that has lost its head, in more ways than one, but rather a Supreme Court that has lost its constitutional existence.
A totally new SC
The Supreme Court needs an entirely new corpus, not just a new head; it must now be totally reconstituted. All its members will have to be replaced. The question though is this: who will reconstitute it? Who will appoint the replacements? The President, who is the appointing power under the Constitution, is the first violator of the Constitution; he himself needs to be replaced.
So we go back to the question: the Supreme Court is broken, how do we put it back together again? Will not the attempt to put it back together again only make it more broken still? The People must intervene.
Independent of what has befallen the Supreme Court, DU30 has set in motion a wild effort to change the constitutional structure. A constitutional commission organized by the President is now on a regional “road show” to air its proposals for a “federal system” of government and other ideas. The commission is composed of Filipinos who are supposedly learned in the law, but who have decided to put themselves and their knowledge of the law at the service of DU30’s whims and caprices about the Constitution.
Many Filipinos recognize many problems with and infirmities in the present Constitution. They would like to see them instantly corrected. But DU30 shows no intention of correcting these infirmities. His paramount purpose is to consolidate more unaccountable power for himself, and to create infinitely larger political and constitutional infirmities within our body politic. DU30’s open role in the drive to disfigure the Constitution is an unmitigated affront against his oath of office.
This oath says: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President of the Philippines, PRESERVE and DEFEND its Constitution, execute its laws (not drug suspects), do justice to every man and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation. So help me God.”
The right or prerogative to propose constitutional amendments or revisions is limited to the People and Congress, to the exclusion of the President. Upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members, the Congress may directly propose any amendment or revision. Or by a vote of two-thirds of all its members, it may call a constitutional convention to propose amendments or revisions. Or by a majority vote of all its members, it may submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.
Or, upon a petition of at least 12 percent of the registered voters of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three percent of the registered voters therein, the people may directly propose an amendment or revision through initiative.
DU30’s involvement all unconstitutional
There is nothing in the Constitution that allows the President to be publicly and officially involved in any effort to amend or revise the Constitution. And yet every effort related to the present drive to change the Constitution is coming from the President. And all the unprincipled sycophants, including a former chief justice of the Supreme Court, a former Senate president, and deans of law colleges have formed a chorus line to applaud and promote DU30’s naked violation of the Constitution, and the most stupid and inane proposals coming from him.
The most stupid and egregious proposal being pushed is DU30’s inverted “federalism.”
Federalism is a great idea for autonomous or semi-autonomous states, regions or provinces that need and would like to coalesce into one big whole. This was how the United States, Germany, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, or even Malaysia came into being. But trying to break up a unitary state like the Philippines into several parts, in order to try to put them back together again is the most perverse way of doing things. It is doomed to fail.
The only way to justify a federal proposal for the Philippines is to include the Spratly islands in one of the component states, and the state of Sabah in another. The Spratlys and Sabah are not yet part of the organic whole. But this would be a non-starter, because the first could trigger war with China, and the second, war with Malaysia.
Why not federalize Asean?
The only viable federalization scheme for DU30 should involve the whole of Southeast Asia. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) could form the nucleus of such a project. In this, DU30 could probably count on the support of China, Korea, India, Australia, Japan, the United States and even the Europeans.
From the grapevine, I hear that DU30 sees his inverted federalism as merely a means, rather than an end, toward accumulating unlimited and unaccountable power. Having power for its own sake is his main obsession. Sources close to DU30 say he intends to place in the hands of the Congress a draft proposal on the federal system of government when he delivers his next state of the nation address on the fourth Monday of July, and then give them a tight deadline to work on the proposal.
But his main interest, according to these sources, is not the actual shift to a federal system, whose precise features remain vague until now, but rather lies in the” transitory provision,” which would put him in charge of the transition from the unitary to the inverted federal system. He reportedly expects this period to be open-ended, which would allow him to run the country the way he wants to without any inhibitions or constraints throughout his lifetime, good health permitting.
This is an important consideration. DU30 has publicly admitted having Buerger’s, Barret’s and other diseases, for which he has been forced to take Fentanyl; and he is rumored to be battling some kind of carcinoma, which seems to manifest some symptoms. But his far more serious illness could be mental rather than physiological.
At a time when priests are getting killed in broad daylight, and the Church and the People would like to see a more determined government effort to solve and stop these killings, a more responsible president would show a little more sympathy for the victims, and be a little more circumspect in talking about the Church. And yet last Friday,without any provocation or apparent effort to restrain himself, DU30 just started attacking God, the Church and its teachings all over again.
It was shocking beyond belief. A Catholic doctor in Cebu sent me the following message: “I shed a tear in anger and pity when I saw the video of this godless man from Davao ‘brutally’ attack my Church and ‘curse’ Him as a STUPID GOD during his talk in his home base last Friday.
“Lord God, I can no longer ask you to ‘forgive him’ as he has been doing this many times and doing unimaginable harm to your people.
“Lord God, urgently send your justice. You must show your power now. Enough is enough, Lord. Amen.”
Another lay person said she had started praying that the Lord would see all the good things DU30 has done and is doing for the Filipino people and offer him his just reward soonest in Heaven.
* * *
Correction. In my last piece, the reported PNP acquisition of a Wifi Intercept equipment from Israel was erroneously denominated in US dollars. The current cost is only in pesos—P40 million at source, P240 million after the usual “adjustments,” plus P60 million in operational expenses.