Posts Tagged ‘Meralco’

The judicial system has been in the news lately. The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the signing of the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD). Then, it affirmed its unpopular decision to uphold executive privilege over the constitutional right to information and the Congressional prerogatives in investigation in aid of legislation. Lastly, the Court of Appeals lost one of its justices and had others either suspended or reprimanded by the Supreme Court for acts unbecoming of a justice in the case of the GSIS vs. Meralco.

The judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, had always been viewed as the last line of defense in a democracy. The military, often portrayed as the last line, is not–it is an arbiter of democracy. When it decides, it can defend democracy or it can–such as in time of Marcos–ruin it.

The reason for this Supreme Court’s role is constitutional. It stands between the two other republican branches, the Executive and the Legislative, and arbitrates differences between them. In the 1987 constitution, the framers added the power to “determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.”

This power is in addition to its administrative powers over the courts, including the Court of Appeals. When the Supreme Court disciplines its ranks, it always earn high marks from the people. However, the work needed to cleanse the lower judicial bodies of their unsavory reputation is herculean–a labor of a lifetime. The disciplining of CA justices happened within an unusual setting–the epic battle for control of one of the country’s biggest corporation between an economic elite family, on the one hand, and the country’s most politically powerful family and its allies, on the other hand.

The Supreme Court decision on the executive privilege issue, however, earns for itself a very low mark and dangerously tilted the balance between the Executive and the Legislative branches irretrievably in favor of the former. It thus brought nearer the day of absolute power to an already very powerful presidency. In the current political crisis, this is a real temptation.

The Supreme Court TRO on the MOA-AD signing basically postponed the day of decision on the Executive’s prerogative in peace negotiations. Due to the blatant violations of the constitution in the MOA-AD and the overreaching by Malacañang of its powers, everybody is expecting a Supreme Court finding for “a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the Executive.” If it refuses to decide on the issue (because of a convenient “moot and academic” argument provided by the Solicitor-General), then it will allow the resurrection of the MOA-AD.

On balance, the Supreme Court teeters on the crumbling credibility ledge of its own making. It is hard-pressed to define (and actually live up to) its role as the third branch of government. The creation of an automatic pro-Malacañang majority is suspected and this may impinge on its own credibility. A highly-credible Chief Justice in minority adds to the problem of credibility.

The Supreme Court may need to do a lot more hard work, not only to return credibility to the entire judiciary, but–more importantly–to preserve its own. The wavering last line of defense that is the Supreme Court must withstand the assaults on its independence and render justice to everyman, including the president of the Republic.

This must not only be done but it must also be perceived  as such by the people. Otherwise, the military becomes the arbiter of our democracy.

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‘Tis the season for presidential appointments. Leonida, Tagle, Sotto, Neri, Ducut–these are names in the front pages these days. After the first round in May, the new round–only beginning–promises to be more wide-ranging, affecting more senior jobs, and more indicative of the GMA (or more precisely the GMA administration) political agenda in the next six to eighteen months.

The first two appointments caused a stir not because the appointees are well-known and highly credible for the Comelec commissioner’s job they were appointed to. Rather, it was because they were virtual unknowns, not in any list submitted by either of the citizen search committee or the presidential selection committee.

When later, Executive Secretary Ermita said that these two were in the twenty names submitted to Malacañang, it was a dead giveaway because there were only ten names submitted through the presidential selection process. As such, the initial reaction of electoral reform advocates was to put these two in grave doubt. They have a lot to do in order to assure their credibility before the people. It also adds further to the burden of the Commission on Elections to regain its own institutional credibility.

Former senator and defeated TU senatorial candidate Tito Sotto was appointed chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board. It must be conceded that he had the background on the issue since his days in Quezon City as Vice-Mayor. Of course, the eradication of the drug problem is another matter. Incidentally, the position was raised to Cabinet level.

Commission on Higher Education chairman Romulo Neri of the ZTE-NBN fame (or notoriety?) was transferred to the chairmanship of the Social Security System, coinciding with the formation of the National Social Welfare Program headed by the SSS chairman. He also obtained Cabinet rank.

Former Pampanga representative Zenaida Ducut hails from Lubao and has the distinction of being a friend and classmate of GMA. She was appointed acting chairman of the crucial Energy Regulatory Board.

These four appointments created a buzz. Speculations abound that the Comelec appointment is tied to the desperate charter change initiative. The weakest point of this initiative is the huge unpopularity of GMA and widespread opposition to any hint of her extending herself in power beyond June 30, 2010 and to charter change under her tutelage.

In the charter change scenario, the decisive battleground will be the ratification plebiscite (if the initiative gets this far). The Comelec will then be crucial. The appointment of the seventh commissioner will either confirm or disprove this speculation.

The Sotto appointment is obviously a political payback. Similar appointment of defeated Team Unity senatorial candidates are expected in the coming days. This trend constitutes a part of the political consolidation by the GMA loyalists–possibly within the scenario of extension of her stay in power.

The Neri appointment can be interpreted as part of the consolidation process and basically was done to ensure and maintain loyalty in times of political transition and uncertainty. As in his appointment to CHEd chairmanship, the appointment to SSS will certainly provoke more controversy.

Aside from its implication of her personal closeness to GMA,  the Ducut appointment will certainly raise a few eyebrows because of the sensitivity of the post (and of course the huge implications of the subject matter on government fund sourcing, inflationary impact, and Meralco tussle).

The criteria of competence and integrity, as well as the principles of transparency and accountability are the victims in the current appointment. The imperatives of political survival prevailed. Political appointment, where is thy logic?

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