Second of two parts
The first part of this article came out on Tuesday July 15.
Other strategies used to save the Executive.
Criticizing the Supreme Court
Most of the negative reactions to the speech were focused on the President’s critique of the Supreme Court decision. In response, some sectors of Congress announced that the JDF (Judicial Development Fund) of the Supreme Court will be abolished.
We have had the situation of the legislature participating in the implementation of the Appropriation Act, through the pork barrel. This was struck down by the Supreme Court. The executive on the other hand usurped the legislative function by creating the DAP and exercising allocative functions. Now, we have the Executive challenging the Supreme Court and not too subtly threatening to abolish its Judicial Development Fund through congressional allies!
It would appear that the Executive has crossed over into the functions of the other two co-equal branches of government: the Legislative and the Judiciary! Is the Executive more equal than its co-equals?
The motion for reconsideration
The text of the President’s Motion for Reconsideration is now available in electronic and print media. One interesting point is his charge that the Supreme Court did some cross-border activities. This involved the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice, the Cebu Court of Appeals Building, and the Cagayan de Oro Court of Appeals Building.
What I know is that constitutional offices are granted fiscal autonomy. This means they can receive and spend their own income. This is especially true of the Supreme Court, the Commission on Audit and the Civil Service Commission. The objective is to shield them from undue pressures.
The Supreme Court has its own sources of income, just like COA and CSC. Part of its income goes to the Judicial Development Fund, 80 percent of which goes to employee benefits and 20 percent for infrastructure.
Now, all the lower courts are under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. They are part of the 3rd branch of government which is the Judiciary. They are regulated by the Supreme Court. Continuing training and capacity building of judges is rendered by the Supreme Court itself, through its Judicial Academy.
Now, did the Supreme Court engage in cross border activities when it used its income to finance buildings for the lower courts?
How can the Supreme Court be accused of crossing borders when the lower courts are all within its borders?
All the presidents had their own DAPs?
This is a fascinating question. Those who were already practicing professionals during the incumbency of five previous presidents can perhaps help in the search for the truth.
A. Let us start with the former President Marcos. He crafted P.D. 1177 which is the Budget Decree. It includes the automatic appropriation of the debt service, so intensely disliked by Freedom from Debt Coalition, and other civil society organizations. It also contains the provision on augmentation and use of savings which allows the president to augment and use savings “in any agency.” This means that the president could engage in cross-border expenditures outside the executive branch. This provision was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
Since he was the one who promulgated this decree, it can be surmised that he did what the present Executive now did with DAP. Still, we must remember that during the Martial Law years, there was no legislature. There were no elections either. At the very least, Marcos could not give “cross-border” largesse to these two independent institutions.
B. Now, on to the late President Cory. During her tenure, P.D. 1177 was integrated into the Administrative Code. The latter is a compendium of existing laws and decrees governing administrative matters, including Marcosian decrees. The 1987 Constitution does not contain the erroneous P.D. 1177 provisions.
Did President Cory create her version of DAP? Her former Executive Secretary, former senator Joker Arroyo, says no.
Did she create any kind of fund? This has to be verified but, if at all, she probably had a reserve fund which was maintained to cope with fiscal difficulties. It must be remembered that the debt crisis left the Philippine economy in tatters and burdened with a massive foreign debt. It is accepted practice to withhold a percentage of agency allocations in anticipation of possible fiscal crises. This is allowed in the Constitution.
The reserve fund was for fiscal difficulties; in contrast, the DAP was created at a time when the present administration was singing hallelujahs and paeans to its “impressive” economic growth and “spectacular” fiscal performance. The objectives were totally different. What’s more, there was no question about the constitutionality of one in relation to the other. During the early part of President Cory’s tenure, there was no legislature. Lastly, there was not a whiff of a whisper that linked reserve funds to cross-border transactions during President Cory’s time.
C. Now to President Fidel Ramos. While his early years were associated with economic growth and recovery, his presidency in its later years ran smack into the Asian Fiscal Crisis. With the revered Emilia Boncodin, he steadily increased reserve requirements on the budgets of agencies. Was this legal? Yes, the Constitution allows it under conditions of an impending fiscal crisis. Ramos faced not only a national fiscal crisis but a regional fiscal crisis as well. Again, I am not aware of cross-border activities.
To be concluded tomorrow