Those advising the President to pursue a course that will lead to a frontal confrontation with the Supreme Court are bringing our country to the brink of a political and constitutional crisis. They are also putting in peril the President’s chance to leave a positive legacy to the people. In doing so, they invoke the name of public interest. To blur the delineation between their selfish interest and public interest is dangerous and despotic.
Checks and balances are the foundations of democracy. When the Supreme Court declared the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional, it was in exercise of its power and duty as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution ratified during the time of President Cory Aquino.
The Constitution is quite explicit when it reposed on the judiciary not only the power but also the duty “to determine whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch of instrumentality of government.” This was included precisely to prevent a situation where the judiciary bends to the wills of one branch, or of one man as was the case during martial law.
As one of those who fought for freedom and democracy during martial law, I appreciate the powers vested in the Supreme Court by the 1987 Constitution. It enshrines the hopes of the millions of Filipinos who made the 1986 Edsa Revolution possible for a strong judicial institution as the best safeguard against dictatorship in whatever form.
As a lawyer, I firmly believe that a democracy obligates the three co-equal branches — executive, judiciary and legislature — to respect each one’s independence and recognize each one’s powers, duties and limitations set by the Constitution. A healthy democracy will benefit the people.
While I respect the views of those who complain of judicial overreach as well as those who believe in lifting presidential term limits, I pray for sober reflection to restrain abrupt political initiatives. We must never allow purely partisan considerations to erode the institutions that guarantee our freedoms.
I have declared even before the President’s statement the other day my opposition to Charter change, except only on the economic provisions. My position has not changed. I will continue to oppose political Charter change not only because of principle but because it will be destabilizing and divisive at the very moment that we need national unity.
(Statement released by the office of the Vice President on August 15.)