Diffusing power

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

OUR 1987 Constitution is a direct descendant of the original 1787 Constitution produced in the United States of America (US). The US Constitution was specifically designed to diffuse power across the three branches of government: Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary. Power is explicitly not to be concentrated in any particular branch. The first US President, George Washington, who was president from 1789 to 1797, understood this and so the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution were successfully bedded down.

“Money is power” is a commonly used adage. It has a grain of truth. Even those who would not be considered corrupt are influenced by the possibility of monetary gain.

The recent conviction of former Chief Justice Corona was rendered less satisfactory (though not unsafe) by the fact that some Senator judges may have believed that material rewards would come their way if they met the president’s wishes. It they did believe this, they would have been correct.


The domination of the Legislative Branch by the Executive is an unfortunate feature of PNoy’s governance. We saw this with the short-circuiting of the proper legislative processes towards the end of the XVth Congress (2010-2013). The Education Act of 2013 [Republic Act 10533] is an example. This Act did not go through the complete processes in either the House of Representatives or Senate. House Speaker Belmonte and Senate President Enrile were induced (how?) to sign a document on January 30, 2013 which indicated that the Act was approved by Congress.

As a result we now have an Education Act which is substantially a can of worms and which will be sidestepped by many.

The Supreme Court (SC) by deeming unconstitutional both the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) has curtailed PNoy’s ability to allocate money to favored legislators. We hope the consequence is to have a more combative and feisty Legislature. Too much power has been allowed to drift to the Executive Branch. Unelected civil servants are making decisions, especially in the form of “Implementing Rules and Regulations” (IRR) of Republic Acts passed by Congress.

If Congress becomes more independent, we shall see better legislation with less opportunities for the Executive branch to control how the legislation is to be implemented. For example, the Renewable Energy Act introduces the concept of subsidies from renewable energy. The Executive Branch has followed through and has quantified the subsidies. Up to 50 MW of solar energy attracts a subsidy. In May, Energy Secretary Petilla spoke in terms of increasing the amount of solar energy attracting the subsidy from 50 MW to 500 MW.

In my article of May 21st I quantified the implications of this possibility (several tens of billions of pesos to be paid by electricity consumers).

We need a Legislative branch which is both robust and has attention to detail. In the case of renewable energy, a blank cheque has been given to the Executive and our elected representatives need to do more to represent effectively their constituents.

PNoy will give his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday. He is entitled to be upbeat about the economic growth seen during his term. We hope he does not dwell on Supreme Court decisions which curtail his authority to disburse public funds as he sees fit. Instead, he can discuss the exciting projects that will be implemented during the rest of his term.

We hope so.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 23, 2014.


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