Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SC unanimous decision on DAP one of the most avidly followed, illustrating how politicized the people have become. But lawyers warn it's not yet time to uncork the champagne, as SC decisions can be "tricky" and this one confirmed what people feared: prospective application to protect P-Noy. Still, say some, it took courage for justices to defy Palace. Next target: impeachment in House and Sandiganbayan charge vs. Abad.

The Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was one of the most avidly followed decisions in memory and after two postponements, speculation on how the voting would go kept the populace on tenterhooks. But it also illustrated how politicized the people have become. On this aspect there won't be a turning back.

For weeks there were rumors that massive bribery attempt was being made on the justices and that the vote would be razor-thin for DAP. There were all kinds of floats:  at first a grueling 7-7, than a depressing pro-DAP of 8-6, etc. Then, toward the end of last month, reports began to leak out that the decision would be unanimous on DAP as unconstitutional, but that it would be prospective, i.e., applying henceforth from the time of ruling and not on past deeds.  Thus, it would clearly ensure a way out of future prosecution for the President and his budget chief.  

In the end, of the 14 SC justices (the 15th seat  is vacant with the retirement of Justice Roberto Abad last May), 13 justices, including the four appointees of P-Noy (CJ Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Marvic Leonen, Estela Bernabe and Bienvenido Reyes) voted DAP UNCONSTITUTIONAL,  with one abstention (Justice Teresita de Castro reportedly has a relative involved in the case). 

The ponente of the 95-page decision, Justice Lucas Bersamin, who was appointed by President Macapagal Arroyo to SC from the Court of Appeals, is noted among court circles as not having written many decisions, but those he wrote  were regarded as clear and very well-studied. It was, however, also a careful balancing act between unlawfulness of the deed and guarantee of freedom from prosecution.

Of the 13 unanimous votes five magistrates opted to file separate concurring opinions on the ratio decidendi (i.e., that their reasons for deciding unanimously were different): Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion, Mariano del Castillo, Presbitero Velasco and Marvic Leonen. It would be interesting to find how the magistrates argued in these separate concurring opinions in future days.


The SC decision on DAP's unconstitutionality was hailed by some people who felt good that the justices listened to the heart of the people and that they were able to summon enough courage to defy the Palace. But there were those who were disappointed outright that the magistrates didn't go far enough---i.e., to name  President Aquino and DBM Secretary Florencio Abad as having violated the law. 

I personally thought the latter scenario would be too good to be true, given the Palace's pressure on the justices and its criminal implications on the President.

As in many decisions of the SC, the dust still has to settle and it's too early to cork off the champagne on either side---the people's or the Palace. But it's clear that the battle has just begun and the next move now, as lawyers point out, should be  to push this issue to the brink by filing more concrete cases against those involved in the DAP issue.


More specifically, this would mean filing an impeachment case against the President in the House, charging Abad in the Sandiganbayan for conspiracy to violate the law and compelling the corrupt senators to return the DAP bribe. Just how to enforce return of DAP take could be just as tough as impeaching P-Noy, for by now those monies might be have invested by our solons in bank accounts and fancy condos abroad.

The militants have vowed to file the impeachment soonest. Though it may be a 'suntok sa buwan' to try to unseat P-Noy, given the LP domination of that chamber, an impeach move would sustain the pressure on the Palace. Moreover, a negative vote in the House justice committee could galvanize outraged citizens to explore more militant ways of ridding the country of celebrated corruptors. History is replete with such bursts of the unexpected. 

Other groups vow to file a case at the SC to demand the opening of the DBM books on how the P170 billion in DAP was spent---every centavo of it.  Nothing less than full accountancy.  


At this stage there are questions and suggestions from the citizens on this hot topic. One such citizen emailed the following questions and observations to me:

"1. P-Noy and Abad are not lawyers.  They must have consulted someone who told them to go ahead but keep it quiet.  Who did?  It couldn't have been Sol-Gen Francis  Jardeleza as he admitted DAP's illegality during the SC hearing. WHO?

"2. The fact that the Palace kept DAP quiet until Sen. Jinggoy Estrada exposed it in the last quarter of last year means that P-Noy and Abad were NOT SURE of the legality of what they were doing--- but there was the consuming aim of ridding the SC of Chief Justice Renato Corona, whom P-Noy targeted because of his appointment by GMA and his leadership role vs. Hacienda Luisita.  Undertaking disbursements which involves BILLIONS of people's money when there is a cloud of legal certainty IS CRIMINAL .

"3. True enough, when Jinggoy "accidentally" blurted it out in reference to bribes to convict CJ Corona, P-Noy and Abad immediately STOPPED allocating  the DAP.  As Ex-Sen Joker Arroyo sarcastically told media afterwards:  Why was it stopped if they were so sure it was legal?

"4.  That these executive funds were used as bribes for senators to convict Corona made it worse!  Thus, the Palace was interfering with the constitutional function of the senators and robbing them of their moral judgment.

"5.  There must be full disclosure of details of the fund disbursements.

"6.  If P-Noy still has an iota of decency, he should at least get rid of Abad.  But then Abad made sure that he will not go down  alone.  He stated in the SC hearing that P-Noy approved and signed all DAP disbursements.

"7. The end does not justify the means."

As an addendum to the above-citizen's comments, it should be noted that Sen. Miriam Santiago has called for the investigation of the Senate trial and conviction of CJ Corona, based on reports of Palace bribing of senators. The problem with that is, who would investigate? Perhaps only two senators are qualified to conduct it: Joker and Miriam herself


As mentioned above, it's too early to raise the champagne glasses about victory in this recent SC decision, but there's one thing we cannot ignore: the courage of the SC justices to defy Malacanang and listen to the people.  A lawyer emailed this blogger his mixed musings about this  point:

"Until the “PROMULGATION” of the decision's complete text, a lot of things could still go wrong--- even if the courageous 13 Justices unanimously voted 13-0-1, risking a big, big “disgusto” from the Tenant in Malacanang by going out on a limb for justice. True, public opinion would have lynched the SC magistrates if they had declared P-Noy’s pork barrel legal and constitutional after they had outlawed the PDAF of Congress. But it's also true that SC  cases can be very tricky. 

" That's why official SC spokesman TheodoreTe, just kept on saying practically NOTHING except:  “I just read the dispositive portion;  that’s all I can say.”  That’s how he answered every media practitioner---he repeated that sentence about 10 times in his media briefing. 

" That’s why we have to wait for the complete final text and wording of the decision of the ponente, SC Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin.  It’s possible that there are many things in the main body of the decision that would be open to juridical loopholes---to allow the two “most guilty” persons in the DAP scam to go unpunished and without accounting for their crimes and sins against the fundamental law of the land and our people, whom P-Noy called “his bosses” in his first SONA.   

"But I look at yesterday's SC unanimous decision  this way: maybe it might not be a 100% legal victory;  but YES, it's a MORAL VICTORY for those who never believed in P-Noy’s DAANG MATUWID as well as a vindication for former Chief Justice Corona.  Because if you go by Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao’s figures and the data supplied by UP Professor Emeritus Leonor Briones (in her interview with Karen Davila yesterday) all the corruption combined of all past administrations---from Quezon to Arroyo---will appear to be Nothing compared to the P170 Billion DAP of P-Noy."

"I salute the 13 courageous Justices.  May this moral victory against lawlessness, hypocrisy and blatant corruption be the beginning of a  revitalized Supreme Court and the restoration of the Rule of Law, which was lost in our judicial and legal system after the railroading of the Corona impeachment on May 29, 2012."

1 comment:

  1. it is but norman for a pro-gloria arroyo to celebrate this much. thanks