The whole thing started in a televised address to the public delivered by Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III on the 14th July to defend his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) after it was ruled unconstitutional by the Philippine Supreme Court (SC). Today, the effects of President BS Aquino’s attack on the SC as part of that desperate defense continue to ripple across Philippine society.Loyal supporters of and apologists for President BS Aquino have stepped up to the plate in an unprecedented effort to shore up what remains of the President’s political capital. A key pillar in Aquino loyalists’ position is the notion that the benefits of the DAP outweigh the costs — costs to the sanctity of the Constitutional and to the strength of democratic institutions. An example of this is what socialite Gina Lopez recently asserted — that the decision to use the DAP to fund certain projects was based on notions of “the common good”.
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“I’m not a lawyer and when they say the DAP is unconstitutional, I said, ‘What’s the Constitution all about?’ Is it just all about paper work? Isn’t there something out there in the Constitution that talks about the common good? And do we derive the common good and the effect that the DAP has had on the common good because of some piece of paper?”
In other words, there is, DAP apologists insist, cause to justify the trumping of the letter of the Law by the supposed “good intent” that is self-evident in the purported outcomes of the DAP-funded projects. The trouble with that argument is that the interpretation of said law is a field governed exclusively by the judiciary — the one branch in the Philippine government that is more technical than political. And the SC has to be, because the interpretation of the law is not a popularity contest but a contest of logical soundness in arguments made within a framework crafted by the people’s “representatives” in the legislature.
The thing with crises like this is that they test the strength of the country’s institutional democratic governance. And if the Philippines’ democratic institutions survive the onslaught of the popular drivel of President BS Aquino’s apologists intact, they will likely emerge stronger. The alternative, failing that, is that modern institutional democracy in the Philippines will succumb to the wrong arguments like it always has — a woefully traditional outcome in the Philippines observed a decade and a half ago by an admired Filipino economist, based in New York who lamented how, in times of political upheaval, “Logic and common sense take the backseat to political arguments and the views of the poorly-educated.”
(1) Political arguments; and,
(2) The views of the poorly-educated.
The Philippine Supreme Court spouts none of the above. It represents the voice of the non-political (its arguments are necessarily intellectual rather than emotional) and the sufficiently-educated (you need to be a lawyer to serve in the SC).
Therefore, what Lopez says next is rather interesting…
“This realignment of fund[s via mechanisms such as the DAP] has been happening since 1986. It’s been happening for almost 30 years and all of a sudden it’s wrong? Hello?” Lopez said.
But we need to ask ourselves:
Does the fact that things have always been done a certain way make it exempt from ongoing critical evaluation and challenge?
In essence, Lopez says that channeling funds a-la Butch Abad’s DAP is right and immune to challenge simply because it’s been a strong traditional practice since 1986.
The answer to that assertion is therefore just as simple:
Perhaps it is time to challenge and possibly reform that tradition.
President BS Aquino was elected on a promise that his will be a different presidency and that being different could promise different outcomes for a country long made weary by the same results for decades, election in and election out. Funny then, that the argument chosen by his apologists would one that would appeal to tradition rather than to that promised change.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.