• Supreme Court decision on DAP could be tipping point

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    My title is frankly speculative and a bit ominous, inviting the question “Tipping point  for what?”

    I use the term “Tipping point” in the sense that the writer Malcolm Gladwell used it in his bestseller, The Tipping Point, How little things can make a big difference (Little Brown, 2000).

    Gladwell defines a \o “Tipping point (sociology)” tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”

    Now much used in many disciplines, tipping point is said to have originated in the field of epidemiology when an infectious disease reaches a point beyond any local ability to control it from spreading more widely.

    Journalists apply the term to social phenomena, demographic data, and almost any change that is likely to lead to additional consequences. Marketers see it as a threshold that, once reached, will result in additional sales.

    A major catalyst for change

    In describing the High Court’s much-awaited ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the administration as a tipping point, I mean to suggest that it will serve as a major catalyst for change in national politics and governance.

    The issue has become so central to national life, that regardless of how the High Court rules—whether the DAP is unconstitutional or is legal—it will be the subject of much debate and controversy. And it will have far-reaching impact on the Aquino administration and the nation.

    If as anticipated and prayed by many, the SC rules that it is unconstitutional, it will be a major setback for the Aquino administration— opening up the possibility of an impeachment complaint against the President, and possible criminal charges after his term.

    At this point, of course, we don’t have the decision yet; the High Court won’t issue it until the first week of July. All we have for now are conjectures and speculations by journalists like myself, and the rather bold claim of pollster Mahar Mangahas that he has read a copy of the draft decision, a disturbing revelation that was the subject of Bobi Tiglao’s column yesterday (“SC decision leaked to head of SWS,” Times, June 23).

    The alarms raised by Mahar’s revelation and the possible commissioning of SWS to manipulate public opinion will stir political feelings to boiling point this week and next.

    In my writing notebook, I wrote down the following entry for

    May 22, the date when the Thai military announced that it had taken over the government:

    “I shudder to think of what will happen in our country if the Supreme Court rules that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is legal and constitutional, thereby giving a free pass to President BS Aquino and Budget Secretary Butch Abad, and forcing us to say goodbye to over P100 billion of public funds.

    “This would be the equivalent of the fateful initiative of the Yingluck Shinawatra government in Thailand to move an amnesty bill in the Thai Parliament that proposed to grant amnesty to exiled and fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra—a bill which, if passed, would exonerate Thaksin of the crimes for which he has already been convicted in absentia and would enable him to return to Thailand and recover his seized assets.

    “Thailand exploded in protest on this news, setting off a train of events that eventually led to the declaration of martial law and the military takeover of the government by the Thai army.”

    In writing down these notes, my idea was to lay down a thought that may be useful for a future column. It was also to remind myself of how important it is for our Supreme Court to reach a wise and just decision on the DAP issue—one which the whole nation can accept gratefully and with equanimity.

    I feared that a decision analogous to the crooked decision of the Senate in the impeachment trial of former chief Justice Renato Corona could be destabilizing, and could do colossal damage to our democracy.

    I believe this is a thought shared by many of our people who care deeply about our public life, both those who are very critical of what is happening to our country under President Aquino, and those who remain loyal and supportive of him and his policies.

    A lesson from Thailand
    Recent developments in Thailand are instructive of what can go terribly wrong with the nation, when the constitutional order is shaken, and dangerous political initiatives hold sway.

    Significantly, the coup of May 22 can be traced to a bad decision made by the Yingluck government in November 2013.

    At the time, the Thai government faced growing public anger among the opposition and even among its own supporters and heated protests over a far-reaching amnesty bill that could allow former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return home by wiping clean corruption cases against him. The amnesty bill, proposed by Mr. Thaksin’s party, easily passed one house of the bicameral Parliament.

    Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon, was ousted as prime minister by the military in a September 2006 coup and later sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for abuse of power. He has lived abroad in self-imposed exile since 2008. The proposed amnesty law offered a broad amnesty for actions and people related to the coup and its aftermath. If passed, it could also restore to Thaksin part of his fortune that a court seized in 2010 on the ground that the money had been illegally obtained through his political influence.

    Many leading members of the so-called Red Shirt movement, who shut down parts of Bangkok in 2010 in the name of Mr. Thaksin were also stunned by the breadth of the amnesty law, especially proposals to pardon those who ordered the military crackdown against the Red Shirts.

    The leader of a Red Shirt faction in Bangkok, Sombat Boonngamanong, said in a newspaper interview, “I think this is such a shame; it’s unbelievable that Pheu Thai is so brazen to do this. We boarded a train bound for democracy station, but then we suddenly made a turn to Thaksin station. It’s over.”

    The DAP decision facing our Supreme Court will have an impact analogous to what happened in Thailand with the proposed amnesty law.

    As I suggested in an earlier column (“Catharsis: Tragicomedy of Philippine democracy,” Times, June 10), if the SC strikes down DAP, the central role of the administration in the pork barrel scandal will be officially acknowledged.

    “The House could vote to impeach President Aquino because it could serve as its ticket to relevance in the emerging political landscape in the country. Because of poor leadership, it is not listened to anymore on any issue of importance.”

    The public and the media, which have been riled no end by the pork barrel scam, the Napoles lists, and the sensational arrest and detention of Sen. Bong Revilla, will breathe a sigh of relief, if the DAP, the president’s pork barrel, like the PDAF is ruled as unconstitutional.

    There will be a sense that order and reason have returned in our public life. And the people will be grateful that the Supreme Court has once again demonstrated that it truly is with them and for them.

    Conversely, a decision that falls short of affirming separation of powers will be disruptive and loudly protested. The judiciary, speaking through the Supreme Court, cannot abdicate its duty to punish a president for anti-constitutional behavior, and to correct the injury done to the rule of law.

    Then and only then will the SC decision on the DAP serve as a tipping point for change in our country.

    yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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    23 Comments

    1. Recently, SC declares that PDAF is unconstitutional so why that DAP would not be unconstitutional? Senator Miriam Santiago categorically judged that DAP is unconstitutional based on our Constitution and I praise her being a brilliant lawyer in the Senate. The Supreme Court justices must act and decide in accordance with law for the best interest of our country and if not, their crooked decision will be a TIPPING POINT!!!!

    2. Bernardo Carpio on

      Khun Yen,
      Thank you for mentioning Thailand and its Coup De Etat.
      Contrary to what most people think, the Coup is welcomed by the people tired of the corrupt govt of Yingluck.
      And the NCPO is making headway in their fight against entrenched corruption by the politicians, bureucrats, influential people and the police.
      But there are many potential pitfalls ahead and the majority of Thais are cooperating and hope that they will succeed.

    3. Johnny Ramos on

      Don’t be naive, SC will always give Pnoy a mandate. Pnoy is a master politician who was able to control both houses and the whole judiciary. The is no way that Dap will be declared unconstitutional. Pnoy will get what he want but the rising pricing of all commodities is something he doesn’t want to solve. He likes us to be poorer so he can manipulate because we are cowards.

    4. Then let’s all make it THE tipping point….once and for all, in one mass action, remove the SC justices who will sell out to Pnoy, along with the Executive and the Legislative.

      When one does a claning, it is best to do it once and for all….Thailand here we come!

    5. I beg to disagree to this tipping point scenario by Yen. Some senators were arrested in connection with the PDAF scam and the economy based on available economic data is doing well at least on the macro level. The 4Ps program has four million families as its beneficiaries and the major media outfits are obviously not against the administration and the Filipinos are noted for being very patient and peace loving who are known for not going to the streets unless a Ninoy Aquino like figure is killed in broad daylight and in front of television as my basis for not agreeing to Yen who is a good columnist. The NPAs thrive because Filipinos do no want trouble if possible and have the patience to tolerate some inconveniences and they fight back only when they are pushed against the wall and they have no more option but to fight back.

    6. Daniel B. Laurente on

      Supreme court mostly consist of intelligent lawyers with many years of understanding the laws of the land fundamentally the Constitutuion which all other laws enacted by men who are legally formed to enact laws with majority decisions and concurrence follows. But there are moments in the decision making that other considerations takes place to the benefit of the nation concern. Whatever the decision rendered by the highest court of the land should be paramount to the interest of the nation and its people then it must be accepted.

    7. Melchor Vergara on

      if the ruling turns out against the better interest of the nation, let it be a tipping point towards dramatic, drastic change……most great nations had to go through the fire and pain of a full-blown revolution and rose from there……..all those who had “peaceful revolutions” are still mired in the same problems as before, especially us…….

    8. The Filipino people hope that the anticipated decision of the Supreme Court Judges with regards to the issue of DAP will be righteous, and in accordance with the existing Philippine Jurisprudence.

    9. If SC will rule that DAP is unconstitutional, then it is time for the President to step down ASAP. If he will not do this, then the masses will go inside Malacanang and will bring him out and put him before a peoples court together with his corrupt allies like DOJ, COA, OMBUDSMAN and SERENO, but if the President will choose GOD’s way, then this beautiful country will prosper and if the President will have in his heart a sense of forgiving, loving and healing, then this country will become GOD’s haven.

    10. As could be gleaned from the way the DAP fund had been accumulated and disbursed, it doesn’t need a legal mind, much less a ‘rocket scientist’ as the saying goes, to be able to conclude that this fund is unconstitutional. I just can’t imagine how could the overall circumstances surrounding the accumulation and spending of this fund be justified. As indicated in earlier comments, I just hope that the last bastion of justice in the country be guided accordingly, lest we might have irreversible consequences.

    11. Carlo L. Adan on

      If the justices of the Supreme Court justices do not decide to rule that the DAP invented by Secretary Abad and approved by President Aquino is not unconstitutional and illegal, a dishonest way of circumventing the rule of law, then the Republic Philippines–with a corrupt and hypocritical leadership of the Executive Branch at the national and most of the local levels, with a Congress that is dominated by corrupt people who are lap dogs or bought factotums of President Aquino–does not deserve to continue to exist. God will annihilate it. New and smaller states will emerge out of the archipelago’s provinces, some to be pitiful colonies of the Western Powers, China, Japan and Malaysia, some to become the country the country of moral people and families and politically ethical nation-states of Jose Rizal’s vision.

    12. Ito na ang panahon para patunayan ng sc kung tapat sila sa bbayan,kapag na impeached si noynoy,malaking pagbabago ang mangyayari sa bansa,magkakaroon na ng takot ang sino maging pangulo !sana maipakita naman ng sc ang katapatan nila na hindi sila sunudsunuran sa pangulo,

    13. Constitutionality Issue of PDAF and DAP.

      The Supreme Court ruled PDAF as unconstitutional with a retroactive application; while DAP

      (as leaked by Mangahas to Bondoc and his email buddies, and pick up by R. Tiglao) is also

      unconstitutional but” immedietely executory but with prospective effect’. Why the

      diffence in these two rulings’ application. The Constitution as the supreme law of the

      land is applicable in all its aspects and provisions effective from the time of its

      ratification by the people and on-wards. Acts (like the PDAP and DAP, whether by

      legislative or executive fiat) if violative of the constitution and so ruled and construed

      as such unconstitutional from time the acts are committed, and, therefore retroctive to

      time of performance or commission of such act declared unconstitutional. To rule an act as

      unconstitutional but withholding its applicability to such past act which is the very

      ISSUE ruled upon, and then state the ruling is prospective in effect, is an opposite

      conflict in application. The Supreme Court declaring a past act unconsitutional but

      executory only on future similar violative acts takes the form of a legislative enactment

      which Judiciary, as a separate branch of government can not usurp, as that power belongs

      to the legislature. It is enough that the ruling resolved the issue of its

      Constitutionality but can not stretch the interpretation to touch on when its applicable.

      The unconstitutionality of an act reverts to the time the act declared unconstitutional

      was performed which must perforce be retroactive. If DAP is ruled unconstitutional, acts

      (like granting members of Senate additional pork barrel from DAP as a bribe to convict

      Corona) performed under and within this Program is prohibited. Hence, Sec.Abad and Pnoy

      must face the consequences of their unlawful actions, and must be prosecuted and

      impeached, respectively for violations of the Constitution.
      Jun Adan
      New York City

    14. My take is the Supreme Court must not spare Pork King Aquino and his Prince, Abad. If they will manipulate their decisions to go easy on these two brains of Pork and DAP for the unacceptable decision that DAP is unconstitutional, therefore, illegal, yet spare these two for the simple reason that they do not know it’s illegality means to say that they are telling PNoy and Abad that “what you did was illegal, do not do it again” is simply a stupid decision and unacceptable even to the common man who is not a lawyer. This scenario will make the laws of the land flexible and the “precedent” factor will come into play. This will create a snowballing effect to illegal acts of government officials by just invoking that “I do not know that it is illegal and unconstitutional” once they commit illegal acts and get caught. Supreme Court justices, BEWARE because you will be creating a monster of this illegal act.

    15. What’s the difference bet. Pdaf and DAP if both found to be unconstitutional..can you also sue pnoy and the congress for using pdaf until it was declared uncons.masyado niyo lang pinapalaki ang issue kasi ito lang pag asa niyo para masira ang current admin..mga salot kayo.umayos na kayo mga bayaran…

    16. Alejo Rosete on

      Are we the next Thailand of events?

      Whatever the Supreme Court decision on the DAP, is a “Tipping Point” in the history of the Philippines far worse than the “Martial Law” of the late President Marcos.

      If the Supreme Court decides that it is unconstitutional and the effects on the President and Sec. Abad are “Progressive” – the people will be enraged and violent protest will ensue at EDSA. The wrath of the people will not only be the President and his KKK but also against the Chief Justice and the rest of the Justices of the Supreme Court for allowing this kind of justice – no one is above the law, not even the President.

      The PDAF was ruled unconstitutional but retroactive not progressive – Why?

      If the Supreme Court decides “Constitutional” – I expect far worse anger by the people.
      Hoping and praying not a revolution and a declaration of “Martial Law”.

      If the Supreme Court decides, unconstitutional and the “Culprits” will be punished in accordance with the law – they way they are doing with Enrile, Estrada, Revilla and others, there will be peace.

      The people will say “hallelujah” to the Supreme Court – the last bastion of Democracy.

    17. SALVACION CAHAYAG on

      If only the Supreme Court can act sooner or these justices do sworn duties
      to do justice to every Filipino then they will be saving the people from too much
      anxieties and speculation. For after all the case of the DAP has been setting in
      their bench for so long a time. What are they waiting for? For something good
      from Abnoy? It seems that this Supreme Court has been and is now becoming
      to be subservient to Abnoy. Common your honors do your homework if only
      to restore the peoples trust in the judiciary. We call upon all of you to think of
      your country and Filipino people who rely on you as the court of last resort.