Democracy at Work or Constitutional Strife?

It started with the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Then came the PDAF scam, then the DAP scam, and now the looming BIR controversy.

Driven by the Corona impeachment in 2012, the BIR sent the Supreme Court (SC) a request for copies of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of its respective justices. However, in a resolution dated June 17, 2014, the SC denied the said request “for lack of sufficient basis.”

Analysts say that one of the reasons, if not the main reason, PNoy went after CJ Corona was because of the recent decision of the SC involving Hacienda Luisita, which is owned by the President’s clan. Thereafter, the PDAF scam was brought into the fore thanks to the whistleblowing efforts of a certain Benhur Luy and caused by the social media posts of Janet Napoles’ daughter showcasing her expensive stuff and lavish lifestyle. Nevertheless, despite the overwhelming evidence for the guilt of a majority of the senators, only three have been issued warrants of arrest and incarcerated. In an ironic twist of fate, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the presiding judge of the Corona impeachment trial, was among those arrested for the PDAF scam along with Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. Why is that? Could it have anything to do with those three senators being opposition members; or that Enrile was once a crony of the deposed dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, and hence an enemy of the Aquinos? Of course, we already know by now that the legislature, which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives, is basically controlled by the President.

But this is not the end of it. On July 1, 2014, the SC ruled on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the Executive Department, declaring the salient point thereof as unconstitutional. In response to this decision, PNoy gave a national address relative thereto on July 14, 2014 defending the DAP and asking the SC to reconsider its decision.

Considering this background, and the apparent vengefulness of PNoy, it is quite understandable that the SC justices would deny the BIR its request for fear of “harassment.” And why wouldn’t they be careful considering what happened to CJ Corona and the three senators? Atty. Mel Sta. Maria, the new dean of the FEU Institute of Law and resident legal analyst of TV5, said that these things simply show democracy at work (my own paraphrase). Now, is it really just democracy and constitutionalism at work or is it a case of the three co-equal branches of government, or maybe just two, fighting against each other in the quest for supremacy? Only time will tell. The only thing we can do right now is be vigilant by knowing what the law says about these things. Remember, “Ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith” (Article 3, Civil Code of the Philippines).

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