Jose Ma. Montelibano
It was a strange decision, not so much ruling that the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) was unconstitutional, but what happens now that the Supreme Court has said that it is. The decision was quite decisive with its declaration of unconstitutionality but opened a can of worms with its brand of uncertainty.
“Authors, proponents and implementors of the Disbursement Acceleration Program may be held liable unless a proper tribunal found that they acted in good faith,” the Supreme Court said in its decision that declared the DAP as unconstitutional.
By going from clear to vagueness in law provokes all kinds of reaction, and the Supreme Court is getting it. The enemies of the Administration naturally are going to town, the Left with its own traditional agenda and the corrupt Right to distract public attention from their thievery. They are all asking for the worst of legal consequences which the Supreme Court did not say outright as what the authors, proponents and implementors should be liable for. At the same time, the Supreme Court did not say outright that the DAP is unconstitutional but all its programs, authors, proponents and implementors have no liability before the declaration of unconstitutionality.
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” is Newton’s Third Law of Motion.
From sheer intelligence, observation and experimentation, Newton saw something in life that is bigger than his explanation. Newton was concerned with science as he knew it. I am concerned with political science and human dynamics of change, but Newton’s law remains a constant ingredient of my understanding.
I remember the momentum of decades, the various expressions of change that have emanated from the inner wishes of Filipinos. I remember even some of the past when political independence was not a reality, when datus ruled tribes and exercised almost absolute authority. Of course, our history books are now rife with the centuries of Spanish and American rule, including a brief but intense experience of Japanese domination.
The Internet and Facebook are quite indispensable to me nowadays. My continuing interest in advocacy work, and the gradual tiring of a senior citizen’s body, force me to resort to working online to constantly reach the people I need to.
It is a virtual world that many Filipinos are finding themselves in, and the world has never been smaller.
Almost twenty years ago, I discovered the Internet. Six years ago, I entered Facebook. Then, Twitter, then LinkedIn, etcetera, etcetera. It was so important for me to be wired to where the younger generations were largely playing their lives. Technology has become so powerful and needed in daily living that it needs discipline, or simply lack of opportunity, to be without it. Connectivity is not only informational, or educational, it also brings a lot of garbage, human garbage.
“Presumed innocent until proven guilty” is a legal principle of the justice system obtaining in the Philippines. It has little to do with the guilt or innocence of an accused. Hopefully, the legal system ultimately satisfies the minimum objective of justice – that the guilty and the innocent are declared so by law within a reasonable time and the best efforts of all concerned.
Sometimes, though, it does not. Sometimes, the legal principle of a justice system does not end with justice but its travesty. Sometimes, the guilty who are presumed innocent are declared not guilty, or not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt – in violation of the truth. Worse still are the innocent declared guilty by law. How many of the guilty who get away with it or the innocent who are unjustly punished determines the maturity of a people and the societal values that they live by.
History always teaches us one constant lesson – that change is constant. The process is known as evolution, an eerie turn of life’s wheel that guarantees change at any cost, at all cost. There is an apparent trajectory that collective behavior creates, sometimes subtle, sometimes quite visible. The difference from era to era, from one society to another, is the rate of change. But even at its slowest pace, change happens. It always does.
The trajectory sets a direction for that change. When we are not keenly observant, that trajectory cannot be seen. We may think that our common wishes and frustrations have no weight, no power to bring about the change we want. Yet, with enough wanting the same thing, with enough actually trying to create that change, the trajectory is set and evolution has a mini direction within its greater purpose.
Indeed, we have freedom. Sadly, we have no independence. There is a struggle to be won, not against an external aggressor, but against our own weakness.
Free but dependent. That is the Filipino, the collective Filipino. There are changes, of course, but not yet enough to earn independence. Not until we rise above our poverty, not until we rise above corruption.
With half of Filipinos believing themselves to be poor, and ten million reported to be working abroad at the cost of separation from their families during the best years of their lives, independence remains a struggle of a free people. Freedom may mean we rule ourselves instead of submitting to a foreign power, but independence is a collective standing on our own two feet – and we do not.
Like many other Filipinos, I read, listen or watch news about Janet Napoles. I have been doing so ever since her cousin, Benhur Luy, began to talk about a web of corruption that he was part of until the latter part of 2012. Because I write a weekly column, I tend to remember highlights, time periods, and how an issue runs hot, gets cold, fades, gets buried, and sometimes resurrects.
Recently, especially after Napoles seeks to be a state witness herself and comes up with her own list of government officials, or their fronts, who have been on the take, an unusual level of noise from those denying, from those accusing, and from those just unable to resist commenting. It has been a virtual cacophony, a Tower of Babel relived, enough to confuse the silent majority with contrasting and conflicting opinions. It is not the alleged lists from Napoles that confuses more, but the personalities in and around the lists, and the more vociferous among kibitzers.
In several articles I have written, and group discussions I have joined, I keep repeating a message that should be part of our national psyche already but sadly is not. And I mean our land and our seas, the motherland, our home and the first source of our identity. I do not see myself stopping from giving the same message over and over again either, in many ways, to many audiences - especially the majority poor of our population who have never tasted that truth.
I have much to be grateful to China's bullying. This giant of a country is making a ridiculous claim on land and seas that our forefathers have regarded, and used, as their own, as our own. A quick look at the map of Asia, especially Southeast Asia, shows how islands so near to our mainlands, and so far from their Chinese claimants, would be unquestionably part of the Philippines. Even China, if it were not the giant it is, the military and economic power it is, would feel embarrassed about its 9-dash line. It is not about history. It is not about vision. It is about expansion by force. It is about arrogance.
What is the difference between big islands and small islands? Basically, nothing except for size. And where they are located. Their location defines them, just as they define their inhabitants.
The islands and the seas of the Republic of the Philippines define their inhabitants, the Filipino race. Without these land and seas, there would be no natives, no Filipino people. If these same land and seas belonged to another country, like Indonesia, Malaysia or China, there would be no Filipinos, just more Indonesians, Malaysians, or Chinese.
Reality check: Politics in the Philippines, from the 16th century to the present, has been dominated by Catholics.
Therefore, asking for Catholics to enter politics and other social fields like business and other professions, for the purpose of cleansing these from corruption and abuse, is like asking for more of the same.
Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle did ask for the faithful of the Catholic Church to enter the infected fields of Philippine society, especially politics, and infuse these with Catholic virtues in the footsteps of Jesus. If all these areas had not already been the almost exclusive domain of Catholics, this exhortation would be meaningful. But, as it is, in the context of historical and current reality, the published exhortation made in the recent Holy Week is somewhat comic.