Friday, December 9, 2011

Fighting Enemies of Economic and Political Democracy

“Justice delayed, justice denied.”

The Supreme Court issued a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) on the travel ban on former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (PGMA) and husband WITHOUT DELAY.

The COMELEC filed electoral sabotage charges against the former President WITHOUT DELAY.

The RTC Judge issued a warrant to arrest PGMA (the accused) WITHOUT DELAY.

My barber asks, “Is justice served?”

PGMA’s spokeswoman who has a name with a HORN attached does not think justice was served. In fact, she went as far as criticizing the school that produced Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brilliantes and the immigration lawyer who stopped the PGMA entourage at the airport. The school referred to is SAN BEDA COLLEGE, my Alma Mater, which was described by the U.S. Embassy in Manila during our time as the Harvard of the Philippines.

“Justice for Aquino, Justice for All” (JAJA) was the cry of the people and gathered en masse to demand it when Ninoy Aquino (father of PNoy) was assassinated. When Marcos cheated Cory in the Presidential elections, it generated the People Power Revolution.

“Justice for Arroyo, Justice for All” is also the cry of HORN and other PGMA drumbeaters. But I do not see people marching to the beat of HORN’s drums.

On the contrary I see Blue Legal Eagles flying high clearing the clouds for economic and political democracy supported on the ground by Green Archers and legal tigers as brave as, and with the heart of, Red Lions.

Electoral sabotage or fraud is “corruption of democracy”. It consists of stealing the people’s dignity and their inherent right to choose their agents/representatives as principals of the government. It is using the resources of the government to grab power.

In Presidential and national elections, it has the effect of “coup d’état”.  It would be a betrayal of public trust. It substantially reduces the people’s confidence in democracy and, hence, less inclined to accept election results.

I understand that while the current charges refer to electoral sabotage in the 2007 elections, there will be more cases filed based on the 2004 elections, which cheated Fernando Poe, Jr. out of the Presidency and illegally seated PGMA as President for another six years. The “Hello Garci” tapes which prompted the majority of PGMA’s Cabinet to resign, and Cory to join the demand for PGMA’s resignation will be revisited.

This is one battle that PNoy and his administration have to win if the Philippines were to prosper as a democratic nation. PNoy’s father Ninoy died for it. His mother, Cory and People Power won it back for the future generation. Now PNoy has to preserve it, protect it, and go after those who tried to destroy it. He must prevent new enemies from killing it.

A few days ago I attended a World Bank forum on “Ill-Gotten Money and the Economy”.  The panel discussed the effects of corruption activities on the economy of certain countries.

I got interested when I received the email invitation because of its relevance to PNoy’s “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” slogan.

According to the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), the Philippines with a corruption grade of 8.06 is the 4th most corrupt country in Southeast Asia. Only Vietnam (8.07), Cambodia (9.10) and Indonesia (9.27) are more corrupt. Worldwide, the Philippines is ranked 139th among 180 countries compared to Singapore which ranked 4th as being least corrupt.

The negative impact of corruption on the economy is tremendous. According to a study, about 20% of the total national budget or close to P300 billion pesos is lost to corruption yearly. That’s a lot of money that could be used to reduce poverty, create jobs, or finance the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program that would guarantee higher income and greater dignity to farmers who still compose the majority of the masses.

During the Presidential elections, when asked why PNoy did not author or sponsor that many laws when he was a Senator or Congressman, paraphrasing his answer he said, “There are enough laws in the Philippines. What we need is effective and efficient enforcement and execution of these laws. That I will do as President.”

This is the same answer that then Presidential candidate Raul S. Manglapus gave when asked why he had very few Senatorial and Congressional candidates to help him pass laws.

Indeed, there are many existing Philippine Anti-Corruption Laws that PNoy and his team could enforce to fight corruption. I can name at least 8 of them:
(1)  Republic Act 6770 (The Ombudsman Act of 1989);
(2) Title Seven (7), Crimes Committed by Public Officers, Revised Penal Code;
(3) Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act);
(4) Republic Act 1379 (Forfeiture Law);
(5) Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees;
(6) Republic Act 7080 (Plunder Act);
(7) Presidential Decree 46 (Unlawful receipt of gifts by government personnel); and
(8) Presidential decree 749.  It gives Immunity to bribers if they testify against recipient public officials, etc.).

Of course, a corrupt free Judiciary led by the Supreme Court is a necessary condition to eventually dispense justice for the benefit of the governed. When she was President, Arroyo appointed a total of 22 Supreme Court Justices. Of these, 14 were appointed after the controversial elections of 2004. A substantial majority of them remain in control of the magistrate.

Two of the current Justices I personally know. PGMA appointed one (Justice Jose Mendoza) and PNoy the other (Justice Bienvenido Reyes). Both opposed the issuance of a TRO against the travel ban on PGMA. Both are as brave as, and with the heart of, a San Beda Red Lion. As another friend Bedan Bar topnotcher Senator Rene Saguisag said, “In San Beda, we work and pray.”

There is HOPE. Just pray and work with HUMILITY, HONESTY AND HONOR!

Seated in front from extreme left: Author, Benjamin Maynigo and wife Tina Manglapus Maynigo. Others in the photo are PNOY, DFA Secretary del Rosario, Ambassador Cuisia and other leaders of the Filipino community in Washington, D.C.

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