Sereno’s Independence Day speech

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

UNNECESSARILY telling other people what to do is not endearing.

At her Independence Day speech in Kawit, Cavite, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno reminded us not to take shortcuts to make accountable those who have allegedly illicitly gained from malpractices relating to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

We had no intention of doing so.


The populace, with commendable patience, has listened to the apparently horrendous misuse of public funds as described by whistleblowers, especially Benhur Luy.

We are entitled, however, to make the observation that time is not an irrelevant factor when assessing the efficacy of our justice system. For example, the trial of those accused of perpetrating the Maguindanao massacre is taking too long and efforts should be made to increase its tempo.

High-handedly Sereno asked the Ombudsman, Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Commission on Audit (COA) to do their jobs responsibly so that all efforts put into the investigation and prosecution of alleged PDAF anomalies will not be put to waste. It never occurred to us that irresponsibility is a personality trait that may be applied to Conchita Carpio Morales, Leila de Lima, or Grace Pulido Tan.

All this causes us to assess the contribution of the Sereno Supreme Court (SC) to the nation’s progress. We give a bare passing grade, 75% due entirely to the SC resolution that PDAF is unconstitutional.

In all other respects to the SC is not doing well.

The constitutional aspect that needs to be addressed is the limitations of the right of the President to disburse funds to members of Congress that he sees fit. PDAF has been assessed and found to be unconstitutional. What about the disbursement acceleration program (DAP)?

If PDAF is deemed to be unconstitutional, how can DAP be constitutional? It is time for SC to pronounce on this matter.

The SC has addressed the issue as to whether there was collusion between electricity generator plants, several of which allegedly broke down at the same time in December 2013, thereby forcing Meralco to buy electricity from the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM), extolled by former Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras as being a mechanism to drive electricity prices down, at extraordinary price of up to P62 per kilowatt hour.

We believe that the bar required to prove whether there was collusion is not as high as the SC might think. What is required, surely, is to test the hypothesis that there was no collusion and that the generating plants all broke down independently with Meralco, or more accurately Meralco’s customers, having to incur the huge costs of electricity purchased from WESM.

In fact, the chance that the breakdowns occurred simultaneously through randomness is minimal. Therefore, beyond reasonable doubt, there was collusion and Meralco’s customers should not suffer. For the SC to issue temporary restraining order (TROs) is pusillanimous and it is time for it to make its decision. It is then up to Meralco to discuss with its suppliers how Meralco should be reimbursed for last December’s sharp practice.

There are those who say that the Judicial Branch is the weakest arm of government. We disagree. The Legislative branch has achieved this undesirable mantle by allowing itself to be dominated by the Executive Branch.

It is unattractive in a purportedly democratic government for our elected representatives to be pushed around by unelected civil servants.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 25, 2014.


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