JOJO ROBLES: NOYNOY'S POWERS
MANILA, JANUARY 20, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Jojo Robles- If President Noynoy Aquino is granted emergency powers, will he use them to address urgent problems like high electricity prices?
But if Aquino never used his vast regular powers to protect the people before, what makes anyone think giving him even more authority now will prod him to do that?
With Aquino, it has never been a question of a lack of presidential power. It is Aquino’s decision of when and where to expend his great power that is really the key.
In other words, Aquino always gets to pick and choose how he uses the power that he already wields. And no one—not Congress, not the courts, not the media—can dare tell him if he’s using his power unwisely.
If, for instance, Aquino decides to spend an entire half a year of his term removing a chief justice of the Supreme Court, then that is what he does.
Conversely, if Aquino decides to do nothing while the Malampaya gas fields are shut down for maintenance—a scheduled, regular event—then he precipitates a crisis situation that was perfectly avoidable.
This is a President who has never wanted for power. But he sure could use better judgment and advice when using it.
Under Aquino’s presidency, nearly all power has been consolidated in the Executive. What Aquino really needs is a curtailment of his overarching authority—a revival of the congressional and judicial system of checks and balances that has all but disappeared and a less complicit civil society and media, which have allowed him to become some sort of constitutional monarch and absolute ruler.
Let’s see how this has happened. With the wholesale “purchase” of Congress through pork barrel funds and that questionable Aquino invention called the Disbursement Acceleration Program, both Houses have lost their way on daang matuwid, becoming mere well-lubricated echo chambers of Malacanang.
When the pork barrel scandal broke, Congress – the Senate, in particular – lost all of its remaining authority to serve as Aquino’s constitutional counterweight. With Congress in tatters, it doesn’t even have to be bribed anymore; it might as well not even exist.
And there is also a strategic reason why Aquino went after former Chief Justice Renato Corona with all the powers and resources at his command, apart from the fact that Aquino personally detested Corona: Aquino wanted to send a message to the “weakest” branch of government that, with Congress on his side, the courts will have to bow down to him, as well.
And the courts have since been defanged by Aquino, whose appointees now dominate the Supreme Court even if they still constitute a minority.
The highest court in the land may have struck down Congress’ pork, but it still has to prove that it can go head to head with the Palace on DAP and the Reproductive Health Law, both of which are directly and enthusiastically backed by Aquino himself.
As for media, I’ve repeatedly noted how they have, by and large, acted as an extension of the Malacanang press office, abdicating their role as critics and refusing to question even Aquino’s most controversial decisions. Media have of late shown signs that they intend to regain their adversarial relationship with government, even if—in the organizations that wholeheartedly backed Aquino’s quest for the presidency, especially—the change seems to be taking place at a glacial pace.
As for civil society groups, most of which were as heavily invested in Aquino as Big Media, they have all but disappeared. You never get to hear those organizations that made a living out of criticizing government in the past like Akbayan or the Black and While Movement—probably because all of their leaders are now in government themselves.
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Now, I ask, is this the sort of President who deserves to invoke emergency powers that will give him even more authority than he already has? I don’t think so.
Even in the case of the power crisis – which is now a crisis of pricing but which could very well turn into a crisis of supply when the hot, dry season arrives – Aquino seems to understand that he doesn’t need more authority. “I don’t think we are in a situation [where] we have to [use] Section 17 of Article 12 [of the Constitution],” Aquino said.
That provision of the charter states: “In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest.”
But is the solution to Aquino’s not using his powers to act on truly needful things like the power situation when he had all the time giving him more power now so he can suddenly act with urgency? That’s like approving of Aquino’s noynoying and allowing him to cram when he really needs, very late in the day, to act.
And so I find myself agreeing with Aquino on the matter of emergency powers. But while he says that he can do without, I believe that he doesn’t deserve to have them, given how he’s misused his power in the past.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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