Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Supreme Court ruling, a victory to calls for clean government

The Inquirer described it as it is--that decision to render unconstitutional the discretionary funds called PDAF is truly a landmark case. The Supreme Court thru Justice Bernabe wrote the decision with extraordinary wisdom and called a spade a spade. The decision rests on a very simple principle in all republican type of governments--the separation of powers. To sum what the Supreme Court said in the decision, it is violative of the Charter if the very organ of power that determines the budget is also the one who determines its use without going through the normal checks. Meaning, what the Supreme Court did is to clip the unconstitutional oversight functions of Congress in post-budgetary deliberations. The discretionary powers of Congressmen and even the President are now completely erased. There is no more power to use public funds according to a legislator's discretion. Even the President cannot anymore dispense funds from the Malampaya and from the Pagcor. All these monies will be given to the Treasury to fund government's social projects. Since there is no more money to toy with, some political analysts are quick to say that Pnoy is now a weakling, a lame-duck president. I disagree. The President remains the most powerful among the officials of government. The Supreme Court did not divest him of his other powers--the Court just clipped his powers over billions of pesos worth of public funds. What the President will probably use is his appointive powers. Instead of using public monies to court legislators, the President will probably shift towards appointing people close to these legislators in the bureaucracy. Focus will also now shift to the GOCCs or government owned and controlled corporations. These juicy posts will definitely be toyed with by the Executive in balancing its acts before Congress. So, expect an imbalance in the bureaucracy. Like what had happened before, the bureaucracy will bloat with appointees coming from legislators whom the President wants to court. That is one effect of this ruling. Another would be an increase in graft and corrupt practices inside the bureaucracy. Contractors will now have to deal directly with heads of line agencies to get projects. It would now be difficult for contractors and their contacts to mess up these projects because we now have stricter rules in the bidding process. Lastly, the President has control over infrastructure projects which runs into the billions. Control will have to be tighter now that the President lost his control over discretionary funds. So, this is a step towards the right direction. Clean government is now within reach. Scammers within government will now look for other ways to get our monies, the legal and constitutional way. Meaning, the situation is back to where we started--like the situation, pre-Martial law.