Prove Good Faith

by 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.

Because a Supreme Court decision of far-reaching impact could not sustain its clarity to the end, and the end is where accountability, culpability and penalty can be determined, it throws something allegedly purely legal to the realm of politics and social media. It is no wonder, then, people react according to their interpretation of what the Supreme Court decision means in practical terms.

We have seen from televised news the pronouncements of the parties with their own vested interests, not declaring victory or defeat when the SC decision was announced, but moving forward to what was not clear. The enemies of the Administration, like the Left who cannot condemn rebellion but fuels it with open encouragement as though rebellion is constitutional, want the heads of PNoy and Abad. The other political enemies step up on their own squid tactics, which has been ongoing for over a year with mercenaries from all types of media, traditional and social, using a present hot issue to diffuse the guilt of their VIP principals by making everyone guilty as well.

On the side of the Administration, the President himself takes the cudgels for the DAP, insisting that the purpose and implementation of the program were not only in good faith but aggressively in favor of delivering the most in the fastest way to the Filipino people. Pnoy resents the basic assumption of the Supreme Court that the authors, proponents and implementors of DAP did not act in good faith, and would need a proper tribunal to justify that they did, in fact, have good faith in doing so.

Now, how can a protestation of innocence be viewed as defiance? Worse, some of those who are known to have never been happy that Pnoy became president, now say that he is dictatorial. Can the lawyers out there who have been arguing on both sides of the fence, not on the DAP issue but every legal issue under the sun, tell us that those prejudiced by a court decision all quietly accepted it?

I think the rule is the opposite, that by and large, those who lose court cases claim that the judges or justices were bought—all the way from the lowest court to the Supreme Court.

What is the recourse of the President of the Executive Branch when he believes that his Administration has been unfairly judged, and faces serious uncertainty in the future with a Damocles sword over its head?

Under the Constitution, he can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court which handed it down in the first place, or seek intervention from the only other branch of government left – the Congress. That is precisely what Pnoy said, that the Administration will appeal, and that he hopes the third Branch will not need to intervene. And for this, he is called defiant, even dictatorial?

I think that emotions are running high among those with no personal interest either way, and that colors all their thoughts and conclusions. I think that those with their own hidden agenda (it is not well hidden but people forget when emotional) are having their way – which is to disrupt the governance of the Pnoy presidency because they have been severely weakened by it for four straight years. It is not to say that the Administration does not have its blunders, or does not have officials who take advantage of their favored positions instead of going sincerely for reform and new politics.

It does not mean that the Yolanda reconstruction has been up to par, or that poverty has been significantly reduced, or that crime has gone down enough or jobs have gone up enough. But Pnoy has held the respect and admiration of the Filipino people so well, so firmly, that even the world applauds the quantum leap of economic performance and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. This is a terrible blow to those who espouse rebellion, a worst blow to those who would like corruption to be the norm of our societal life. Simply, PNoy is a game changer, and he wants to continue being so – even in his relationship with the Supreme Court.

Here is what is dictatorial – the Supreme Court, representing the Judiciary, resenting any accusation or insinuation of its own failings, whether these be in the form of bad or unfair decisions, or in the bad faith behind these decisions. The Supreme Court had remained quiet despite the perception of corruption that plagued even its former Chief Justice, maybe because more than just one was guilty of it. When Erap called the people behind the Bench “hoodlums in robes,” it is no surprise that he found empathy from many Filipinos.

Prove good faith, then, Supreme Court, as you have asked Pnoy to do the same. And prove it to the people, as Pnoy now wants to, because they have long forgotten how it feels to have a Judiciary they can truly trust.

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