“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

- Pope Francis

Government of Laws and Not of Men

Atty. Ceferino Baquilod

By Atty. Ceferino Baquilod

IT was John Adams who introduced the concept of ‘government of laws and not of men’ which was enshrined in the 1780 Massachusett’s Constitution, in the USA. This doctrine simply means that countries should be governed based on written laws and not by whims and caprices of one despotic leader. The drafters of our constitution in the Philippines were guided by this principle and made sure that the 3 branches of our government remain co-equal and independent. As we all know, the Legislature makes the laws, the Judicary interpretes the laws, and the Exccutive implements the laws. Each branch is supposed to confine itself to its respective mandate.

It seems however that currently, there is a major encroachment of this doctrine. Our Executive and Legislative branches are in cahoots and are currently joining forces to boot out the head of Judiciary. This was made clear when Duterte told the public that Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno has been talking too much and asking too many questions regarding the controversial quo warranto and impeachment cases against her. Sereno has intimated she knows that Duterte is actually behind the filing of the cases for her ouster. This angered Duterte so much that he declared her an enemy. He directed his allies in the Legislature to hasten her ouster. According to legal experts, this is a clear attack on judicial independence and an intrusion into judical power. Some may opine that his actuation could constitute as a culpable violation of the constitution, an impeachable offense.

The president has shown that he has ways of silencing or getting rid of those who may appear as obstructions to his political plans. He jailed DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima, one of his most rabid critics on extra-judicial killings. His allies in Congress got rid of Comelec Chairman Bautista. He was furious and had word war with Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and even threatened them with a creation of a presidential commission to get rid of corrupt officials of their agency. This was Duterte’s retaliation to Ombudsman’s pending investigation into Duterte family’s P1B+ ill gotten wealth. Now it is CJ Sereno he wants to get rid of. Curious observation: most of Duterte’s formidable enemies are women.

Duterte has consistently demonstrated his own unique perspective of things. He does not seem to care much about laws, norms and traditional ways of addressing situations, both locally and internationally. One wonders where this kind of leadership will lead us.

Barangay Elections

After a few postponments or flip flops on whether or not to have barangay elections, our current administration finally decided to hold the Barangay Elections on May 14, 2018. According to law, it was supposed to have been done way back in October 2016.

Voters will elect Barangay Captains and Barangay Council Members in the 42,028 barangays all over the country. The reformed Sangguniang Kabataan elections will also be conducted on the same day.

Past elections in the Philippines, have always been characterized by all sorts of corrupt electoral practices, foremost of which are massive vote buying and political mud-slinging, making the exercise more on personalities instead of issues. Almost always there are election-related violence and deaths too. To top it all, COMELEC’s vote-counting machines are allegedly tampered. Because of rampant vote buying, candidates need to cough up huge amounts of money to be seriously considered by voters. This is specially true in poorer provinces like Eastern Samar, where elections have become a money contest. The winning candidate’s first agenda, we all know, is how to recoup his expenses in the last election. Since his salary alone will not suffice, he needs to be ‘creative’. Hence, corruption will never go away as long as our elections are done the same way. This makes me a real skeptic . I wonder if we will ever have honest and clean elections in this country.

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