In all conscience...

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By Sandy Gil

Sunday Dunes

Saturday, July 19, 2014

IT IS an extremely rare occasion that I have any political opinion, passionate or otherwise. In my middle class perception, the pork barrel of Congress, the controversial Development Acceleration Program (DAP), and the sprinkling of street protests, among others, have been mere media information that I have learned to nonchalant. These political issues fail to interrupt my daily routine of home and work. I cannot claim to speak for the rest of the middle class, but in all conscience...


I am certainly not a lawyer. But I do know that the DAP issue was raised because of the insinuation of an obviously disgruntled senator (who blames the President for his current detention due to charges of plunder) that the President used DAP funds to pay off the Senate to impeach the former Chief Justice. And because of the unsubstantiated doubt created, an activist group asked the Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of the DAP.


The Supreme Court (13 of its 14 members concurring, with one abstaining) recently declared DAP as unconstitutional - this, despite most everyone, including the Supreme Court itself, agreeing that the DAP funds were put to good use in helping our economy. But for the life of me, in my very simple layman mind, how can something that was good for the nation be unlawful?


The way I understand it, the Supreme Court said that while DAP funds were put to good use, the process by which it was constituted - by transferring funds from other government offices - is unconstitutional. In brief, our Constitution (ratified in February 1987) states that the transfer of savings from the budget of any office must undergo long and tedious bureaucratic procedures (designed to minimize, if not totally eradicate, graft and corruption prevalent during the Marcos regime prior to 1987), such as asking the permission of Congress (since this body approves the budget), or waiting until the end of the fiscal year to re-program such savings.


Beyond declaring DAP unconstitutional, the concurring opinions of a few members of the Supreme Court have apparently concluded that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) should have known these procedures before allowing the transfer of funds. These few Justices have in fact determined that the DBM is guilty of bad faith, ignoring the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. In my simple mind, the issue at hand was the constitutionality of DAP, and not the accountability of any government office in the creation or use of DAP.


I think that there is no longer much question about whether or not the transfer of funds was put to good use (although to put an end to any doubt, the President might see it fit to show the public where the funds went). In his speech on national television last Monday, the President defended his action by pointing to a provision in the Administrative Code of July 1987 - a provision which has yet to be declared unconstitutional - that allows his office to transfer funds as he deems fit.


In my simple layman mind, I think this is where two totally different points of view lie. I can understand the Supreme Court's declaration of DAP as unconstitutional. But likewise, I can also understand the President's obligation to judiciously and honestly use DAP funds to directly and immediately provide urgent economic solutions that benefit the nation. With DAP declared as unconstitutional, the President will be hog-tied - rendering him inutile in times when the exigencies of goods and services are most needed by the nation. (His detractors will be most pleased, I am sure.)

It surprises me that, contrary to my naive preconceptions about law and in the DAP case, it appears that laws are intangible abstractions that can be blind to harsh realities, and as a result, can cause suffering.


As a parent with once growing children, I too had a body of rules in the home. But these rules were implemented with wisdom and understanding, enlightened by an acute awareness as my children grew up into teenagers, and then adults. My rules at home were not lifeless rules, but living rules. In fact, understanding my children who were governed by these rules humanized these very same rules.

Cannot the Philippine Constitution be given life and humanized in a similar way? For in all conscience, is it not the Filipino people who should emerge as the victor in our pursuit of what is fair and honest?

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 20, 2014.


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