When Three Become One
I’m not a lawyer, nor do I consider myself an expert in governance or politics. I like to consider myself as a 22-year-old kid who meddles in political affairs not only because I care genuinely for the Philippines, but because my future as a young man who will benefit from – or even pay for – the consequences of today.
Which is why as I was reading the Inquirer article forming the Judicial Executive Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JELAC) today, I was rather concerned.
I think it was Montesquieu who propounded the “Trias Politica,” what most of us know as the doctrine of separation of powers. While people would debate on the matter of whether or not Gloria Arroyo has read – perhaps even understood – something as elementary as Montesquieu (to be honest, even I was confused), she has this to say:
“Separation does not mean isolation. Rather, among our co-equal branches, there should be consultation and cooperation to advance shared priorities in the national interest and welfare of all Filipinos.”
So to anyone who still thinks that Arroyo is bent on Charter Change to shift from Presidential to Parliamentary, there you have it.
I’m not the kind of “radical” who would spout out rants and raves about how the JELAC would be used to prosecute “political enemies,” but I am rather concerned with why Arroyo would do this at such a crucial moment. If it’s any consolation, it is Arroyo who precisely benefits from separation of powers as applied here. Without separation of powers, Arroyo would have been impeached a long time ago. It is the check-and-balance benefit of separation of powers that keeps Arroyo in Malacañang. Without that check-and-balance (read: bickering) that has our honorable political branches in a quandary for definitions, surely the supposed inevitable would have happened.
Separation of powers exists to do three things: check-and-balance, distribution of power, and public accountability. Each division or branch of government has a limited means and a limited ends: one should not encroach upon the other. Not only are branches of government accountable to where their powers begin and end, but are also accountable to the public in terms of what they can do and what they are supposed to do. This prevents government from unfairly encroaching upon the rights – civil and political – of the people, because each branch is not only accountable to another, it is accountable to the populace. Thus there is a clear understanding of what people in power can do, and what people in power can’t do.
Yet it is not impeachment that we are concerned about here. More from the Inquirer article:
“The council will be composed of nine members, with the President sitting as chairperson and the following as members: Vice President, Senate President, Speaker, Chief Justice, one member of the Cabinet to be designated by the President, one member of the Senate to be designated by the Senate President, one member of the House of Representatives to be designated by the Speaker, and one member of the Supreme Court to be designated by the Chief Justice.”
Excuse me for being a soothsaying paranoiac, but it all makes sense to me now. In 2011, Arroyo would probably be a victim of her own “rule of law:” that she will answer for a few things herself. With an independent judiciary sans a “cooperation” between our separated branches of government, Arroyo would definitely be at the other end of the proverbial stick. JELAC makes it possible to circumvent the etched-in-stone rule of law for Arroyo to make it through without a hitch. To put it bluntly, JELAC expands the proverbial “butas ng karayom.”
Yet what concerns me most is that as the JELAC seeks to “unify,” it also seeks to nullify the ought-to-be that makes our political system. That conveniently circumvented ought-to-be is the Constitution, the theory behind it, and the will of the people that make a Constitution what it is. For someone whose entire “legitimacy” rested on tooting the Constitutional horn, this move by Arroyo is odd, to say the least (and certainly not the worst). The “primacy of the rule of law” does not refer to this rule of law.
I leave debates on the Constitutionality of the JELAC to knowledgeable lawyers. After all, I’m just one of them meddling kids.