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Back Opinion OP-ED Jose Ma. Montelibano Co-Equal Means What
09 Dec 2011

Co-Equal Means What

Ours is supposed to be a democracy with three co-equal branches - the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary. These three co-exist, mostly at peace with each other, but necessarily have to lock horns every so often. If not, then they do not serve a fundamental reason why they are three co-equal branches of government - the principle of check-and-balance.

Co-equal. It seems simple enough, co-equal. Their primary functions are different, yet their autonomy and authority are not supposed to be higher than the other.

It is no secret that the Philippines is in a mess. And the mess is not so much that there is a Leftist insurgency, that there is a Muslim separatist group, but because there is a kind of corruption that has seeped in deeply into the bureaucracy, a corruption that is fueled not only by the greed of public officials but also by the greed of the private sector. Definitely, though, that corruption is not caused by the poor, by the majority of Filipinos; rather, they are the first and ultimate victims.

There is poverty, too, the very simple kind, the one that is absolutely caused by corruption. In a country where abundance is its main feature, poverty as massive and historical as ours can be caused only by corruption, by the greed of a few backed up by power from authority and force. It is a corruption that takes advantage of the weakness and ignorance of the many who have been unable to rise above almost four hundred years of slavery or submission.

When Noynoy Aquino was yanked out of a quiet and comfortable life by the death of his mother and icon of democracy, I was jolted into witnessing a visible and powerful play by destiny. Reviewing my own articles, I first wrote about Noynoy and his running for president on August 18, 2009, after columnists William Esposo and Conrad de Quiros had awakened me, and many others, to the possibility. But from that beginning, I always saw Noynoy in relation to destiny - the destiny of a man, a family and the Filipino people. 

I had no candidate for president before Noynoy. With a few but achieving individuals who could take on serious causes for life, I was deep in the formation of modules about good citizenship and a collective march towards nation-building through volunteerism. I have long stopped looking at presidents as saviors of our country, not in a democracy, that is. If we want to build a strong democracy, only a strong people can do that. If we cannot be good citizens, if we cannot do our share in contributing to the common good, then how can we be a strong people? Worse, in bad times, how can we be sacrificial and heroic?

However, the view of destiny playing its powerful hand in disrupting the electoral routine by thrusting the son of heroes into the fray without ambition or preparation on his part pulled me in and convinced me that he was worth supporting. My support of Noynoy then, and now, was premised on my conviction that he would facilitate and motivate good citizenship and volunteerism. I already saw his first impact as a possible presidential candidate even before he announced his decision to run. I believed the special charisma that was bestowed on him by the moment would spark the collective desire for meaningful and sustainable change. His campaign and victory was an anointment by the people and not, thank God, the primary work of politicians.

"Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap" followed by "Kayo ang boss ko." The promise and the priority were set from the campaign and from his first day as P-Noy. What, then, is so controversial about his open declaration of doubt at the agenda and sincerity to duty of the Chief Justice? From the appointment of Corona after the elections already produced a president-elect, an appointment that a more ethical beneficiary could have easily asked to be deferred, or offered by the incoming president to another colleague in the Supreme Court, the new Chief Justice invited not just doubts but suspicion about the real reason of a midnight appointment. Succeeding decisions deepened the doubts and suspicions, especially the way that the Supreme Court maneuvered the controversial TRO against the hold order on Gloria Arroyo's travel.

Being the son of heroes apparently demands a more than usual approach to corruption and the determination to fight it.  What many may not appreciate is that the life of P-Noy would be more relaxed and less controversial if he simply gives the economy and poverty his first priority. From the campaign period, there were many voices from within his party to give more attention to anti-poverty, pro-economy programs instead of his relentless focus on battling corruption. The efforts to dissuade him from that focused conviction against corruption continues today, openly by political enemies who may be afraid that their plunder and looting will be unearthed, and subtly by allies who would like to enjoy the perks of their newfound positions and power.

But destiny is a demanding master. The Filipino people and nation are perverted by corruption, are impoverished by corruption; it is a cancer that terminates our morality and festers on the body politik. If P-Noy, indeed, is a child of great destiny as much as a child of Ninoy and Cory, he will not be at rest for as long as corruption doubles up as an operating system in the life of the Filipino nation.

From August of 2009 to today, the worst of insults have been hurled at Noynoy, now P-Noy. His being president has not excused or insulated him and his office from those insults. Any paid hack from media feels very free to demean him and the institution he heads. And his co-equal, the co-equal of the Office of the President, cannot be criticized, cannot be the object of doubt and suspicion?

Co-equal means having the same opportunities for being premier models of integrity and courage. Co-equal also means being vulnerable to criticisms and accusations, especially for cause.

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