Why President Aquino is right to push back against the Supreme Court

address to nation re DAP

July 14, introducing the subject of judicial overreach

Context is everything. When we want to judge something accurately, we need to get the context right or we are likely to end up with the wrong judgment. I think that is broadly what has happened regarding President Aquino’s “push-back” against the Supreme Court on the Court’s DAP ruling. And his comments about a second term.

A whole lot of people are getting the context wrong.

DAP means “Disbursement Acceleration Program”, which in turn means jump starting the economy by redirecting unused or poorly used funds to good uses. It does not mean accelerating money into legislator pockets. That abused practice is called PDAF.

People are reading the context of the President’s push-back as political. The most extreme views hold that Mr. Aquino is trying to consolidate power as a dictator. He wants to spend money with impunity, knock the Supreme court back to impotence, and establish himself as ruler for life.

That is the extreme version of the criticisms that have arisen, mainly espoused by crooks, political opponents and leftists. Other views . . . even from the President’s backers . . . are not that extreme, but are on the same “politics” path, one that perceives an overabundance of authority and even arrogance arising from President Aquino’s recent acts and statements.

But what if those observations are wrong? What if the context, the framing,  used by critics is wrong? What if “power for the sake of power” as the context of the President’s remarks is completely wrong? What if politics has precious little to do with the President’s push-back?

What if the ACTUAL framing is good works for the good people of the Philippines?

Then it is the critics who are as wrong as wrong can be. And they risk taking the entire Philippines down the wrong path, one which inevitably leads to great damage. And moving backward.

Wrong context. Wrong decisions.

What we have here is a confluence of forces merging toward a crash point. Here are the forces now joining:

  • A president set upon getting the Philippines on the right track, clean of corruption, enlarged of economy, reduced of poverty. Defended from China. Peaceful in Mindanao. Better of infrastructure. Investing in programs to help the poor.
  • A group of people offended by the President’s acts. They object about projects cancelled, or friends jailed, or political causes threatened.
  • A Supreme Court feeling independent, very independent, wholly separate from the other branches of government. A legalistic chewing machine that reads the words of legal documents but is deaf to the overarching intent of the Constitution – to take care of the nation and its citizens.
  • A Constitution bound in legalistic details written in 1987 by a group of esteemed people who could not see the consequences of the confining words they were putting into that document. Their words were written to confine a dictator’s bad choices, and inadvertently tied the hands of a president trying to do good deeds.
  • A Congress that is being marginalized by Executive power and favor, by a Supreme Court that re-writes its arduously crafted laws line by line and by a public fed up with crooks in the Legislature. The solons need a target to vent at, and the Supreme Court may become that target.

So on one side of the divide we have a Constitution bound in 1987 thinking, fresh off a dictator, along with its interpreter, the Supreme Court, which evidences little Jeffersonian conceptual awareness about what its legalistic rulings are doing to the nation and to the powers of Congress and Executive.

On the other side, we have the President who wants to do good works and is among the few who see what is happening. His constructive efforts are blocked by the Supreme Court’s locked in, defensive, legalistic barrier. He has been joined by legislators who have about had it with narrow-thinking activist judges who hold themselves above checks and balances (i.e., the Court maintaining its own discretionary fund while outlawing those of the Legislature and the Executive).

The Court’s DAP ruling was a huge ruling, make no mistake about it. And coming directly toward the Supreme Court are two more nation-defining rulings:

  • Visiting forces agreement, which determines if the Philippines has a legitimate fighting force on its soil or not. At a time when its oceanic territory is occupied by China’s fighting forces.
  • Bangsamoro agreement, which determines if the Philippines has peace in Mindanao and the framework for building an economy there, or continuing destructive bloodshed and a tattered Mindanao economy.

The Supreme Court will have, within its hands, the ability to assure China’s continued encroachment into Philippine Seas.

The Court will have, within its hands, the ability to assure that bloodshed and economic malaise continue in Mindanao.

Those are the outcomes if the Court continues its narrow legalistic rulings, as it did with DAP, that the President is not entitled, under the Constitution, to take acts that benefit the nation.

The President calls it “over-reaching” when the Court intrudes into Executive decision-making. And that is EXACTLY what it is.

I go further. I call it insane when the court is busy looking at words stripped of any relevance to “good faith or good intent”, thereby completely missing the reason the Constitution exists. And the leadership role Executive is MANDATED to take under that Constitution.

The Court needed to get knocked back.

But I sense from the various defensive complaints emerging from Court spokespeople that the Supreme Court is not listening. That the Court is just another 100 percenter, a body that is more interested in defending its acts than doing what is best for the nation.

The forces are coming together on three absolutely critical issues:

  1. How to build the Philippine economy forthrightly (DAP).
  2. How to defend the nation from an intruder (visiting forces agreement).
  3. How to find peace and some measure of prosperity in Mindanao (Bangsamoro agreement).

The Supreme Court set a precedent with DAP in saying “you can’t do those things because the Constitution does not provide a basis for them . . . even if they benefit the nation.”


Either the Constitution needs to be thrown out, or the Court does. How does Executive execute if it is held to a 1987 frame of mind? If Executive can’t defend the nation? Or work to find a successful peace in a complex arena where so many other nations are failing? Or can’t do all that can be done to help the poor?

The President seems to me to be about the only guy around who gets the real picture. Because he is RESPONSIBLE for it.

The judges are not. But they can, by interpretive ruling, destroy the President’s important works.

The context for the President’s fight with the Supreme Court has nothing whatsoever to do with politics. That reading is the typical, emotional, self-serving, untrusting, baseless reading provoked by a tabloid press and some loud people who are antagonistic toward Philippine stability and well-being because of personal interests.

It’s time for people, and “the people’s” leaders, to wake up and think right.

Get simple and get the context right.

Try this context on for size. It’s the one you used when you swept Mr. Aquino into office:

President Aquino is working earnestly to do good deeds for the good people of the Philippines.

Leaders of “people power” are making a mistake if they can’t grasp that they have a President who puts the Philippines above politics. They need to wake up to what happens if Executive and Legislative powers are eviscerated by a narrow-visioned Supreme Court. If the economy languishes. If China is not countered. If Mindanao reverts to violence.

You see, unfortunately, it is the people who will  bear the pains brought on by decisions flowing from a really bad contextual reading.

Get the context right and the right decisions will be forthcoming.

That applies to the Supreme Court which needs to consider constitutional intent, broadly, and not words, narrowly. And it applies to people-power leaders who need to consider the best interest of the people, not deeply ingrained suspicions of the nation’s leadership.

Get it wrong, and woe to the Philippines.

UPDATE 8/21/14

The following article illustrates how Supreme Court decisions have very real negative impacts upon efforts of Executive to move the nation forward:

“SC blamed for looming power crisis”, Inquirer.net, 8/21/14/

The Supreme court gets a “freebie” on accountability, but Executive does not.

55 Responses to “Why President Aquino is right to push back against the Supreme Court”
  1. sonny says:


    I like that these last two installments seem to be faces of the same coin: one, reflecting the past and the other, real-time concerns. This works for me as a senior’s mnemonic device to remind me where my thoughts are. This is now part of my overhead to maintain coherence.

    The past consists of thoughts on American tutelage over the Philippines, to borrow the term of Fr Horacio de la Costa, SJ to characterize US colonial times. This gallery is a parade of the faces that were involved in smithing those times: A.T. Mahan, T. Roosevelt, Schurman, Taft, Wood, Burnham, Barrows, Quezon, Osmena, Roxas, Pardo de Tavera, et al.

    Fast forward to today, we are in the throes of authenticating our mettle as a bonafide nation. Whether we admit it or not, these times and personalities are critical in a very primal sense since we are either tweaking our Constitution in a perverse way or testing it as steel against steel by using it to become an essential part of our patrimony.

    Quo Vadis, Philippines?

  2. manuel buencamino says:

    Good piece Joe. Putting the whole thing in a Jeffersonian frame gives a whole new look to the SC ruling on DAP and more importantly to the role of the SC in matters of good governance.

    • Joe America says:

      Thank you, MB. I think the court ends up with absurd conclusions if they wander amongst the legalisms and forget why there is a Constitution and an Executive empowered to do good acts for the Philippines. And a Legislature empowered to write new laws.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        The case of appointed officials vs elected official, the former accountable only through impeachment, the latter accountable to the electorate every three years.

        Another example of judicial overeach with far reaching consequences is when the SC redefined the meaning of the constitutional provision on the initiation of impeachment complaints… when its Chief, Hilario Davide, was under threat of impeachment.

        The Court parsed the meaning of “to initiate” to reach a decision favoring its Chief Justice.

        “Having concluded that the initiation takes place by the act of filing of the impeachment complaint and referral to the House Committee on Justice, the initial action taken thereon, the meaning of Section 3 (5) of Article XI becomes clear. Once an impeachment complaint has been initiated in the foregoing manner, another may not be filed against the same official within a one year period following Article XI, Section 3(5) of the Constitution.”

        And so first come first served became the law. That’s why during the time of GMA those who were filing “impeach me” complaints sponsored by GMA were there to file their flimsy cases before legitimate complaints could be filed.

        It was argued, to no avail, that the mere act of filing and referral were not enough to activate the constitutional prohibition against more than one complaint against the same official in the same year, the initiation they said meant to file, to refer, and to deliberate on the merits of the complaint. In other words, substantial actions not mere procedural steps should be the basis of defining “initiation.”

        The SC’s decision was very popular at the time because Davide was percieved as being persecuted by a Congress working at the behest of Danding Cojuangco. Implications of the decision were ignored and it bit back bigtime when it was GMA’s turn to face impeachment. The Court caved in to popular demand and also stood up in defense of its chief magistrate. In a sense the Court acted in the same way as it did with PDAF and DAP. It contorted its thinking to satisfy popular demand and to get back at the man who jailed their patron, impeached their chief magistrate, and skipped seniority to appoint a junior justice.

        • Joe America says:

          It is so detestable when judges play politics. It goes to the root of what ethics is about, and for people of such “learned” stature and importance to play mickey mouse games. . . Really dismaying. It started early on after the Sereno appointment, regarding not showing up for the flag ceremony. What a disgusting representation for those who should be the most esteemed among us.

          “Contorted thinking.” I like that phrase. Contorted professional maturity.

  3. manuel buencamino says:

    By the way, another case of judicial overreach is the SC’s favorable decision on the appeal of Solgen Jardaleza that he be re-included in the JBC’s list of nominees to the SC after the JBC dropped him.

    “During Tuesday’s deliberations in the Supreme Court, the key argument raised by those who voted to retain Jardeleza’s name on the JBC shortlist was “due process.” Led by Justices Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, they argued that integrity should not be discussed because Jardeleza had previously gathered 4 out of 6 votes in the JBC anyway.

    “Two other justices – Sereno and Carpio – inhibited themselves from the deliberations on Tuesday, leaving Justice Marvic Leonen to argue against the inclusion of Jardeleza. Leonen, according to sources, cited “judicial overreach.”

    “The SC should presume that the JBC, an independent constitutional body, knows what it is doing. To supplant its discretion by insisting on the inclusion of Jardeleza would have been tantamount to judicial overreach. The argument however failed to convince the majority.” (Excerpt from Rappler article http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/66685-inside-story-jardeleza-disloyalty)

    Read Art 8 of the 1987 Constitution on the JBC. Granted that the JBC is under the Court’s supervision Art 8(1) but Art 8(5) says the principal function of the JBC is to recommend appointees to the Judiciary. Note that the list of appointees is submitted to the president and not to the SC for approval. Now the Court’s decision has given itself the power to amend the JBC’s list of nominees. So what happens to the JBC? And what happens to the president’s power to choose a nominee from the JBC’s list? Do they now need the Court’s prior approval?

  4. Apolinario Mendez says:

    You’re suppositions of what ifs…make your case flawed from the beginning. What if the sun revolves around earth? What if water flows from bottom to top? Your what ifs are ifs and mere assumptions.

    • Joe America says:

      Well, Apolinario, let’s look at that. So you are saying that President Aquino is first and foremost a political player, and acts primarily for self advantage, or to the advantage of a political bloc, either LP or family dynasty, or for personal enrichment. I say he is first and foremost a public servant, and acts to benefit the Philippine people and uphold the legacy of his parents.

      So you claim his push-back against the Supreme Court was perhaps revenge for them having ruled that important aspects of DAP were unconstitutional, and an effort to continue to be able to dispense funds at will . . . rather like a dictator. Furthermore, he made his ad lib remarks about term limits to test the waters or warm things up for an effort to remain in office, again for political gain and not to benefit the Philippines.

      Many things are possible, I suppose. In truth, neither you nor I know what is in Mr. Aquino’s mind, so we read the signals as best we can. I read the results and don’t see a man who is sitting back doing his calculations for personal enrichment or family gain. He didn’t aspire to the presidency. He was pushed there. He already has his riches, he has no family to speak of, no dynasty to promote, no kids to get into the mayor’s office or senate. He has given the Philippines stability, a better financial condition, a path to peace in Mindanao, a peaceful, law-based response to China, better storm warnings and recovery, better infrastructure . . . well, I get tired of listing his good accomplishments. Just check the rise of the Philippines on global ratings indexes. So the results show he is working earnestly, and I see absolutely no evidence that he is working for political gain. Well, maybe his appointment of Roxas to DILG was a political move. There is that.

      As for DAP, it was essentially a concluded program when the Supreme Court made its ruling. The expenses had been rerouted to better use. What he objected to was the assignment of criminality and bad faith to his deeds, the same kind of frustrated outrage we would see from an innocent person accused of a crime. He was offended because his earnest good works were taken as bad works. And a major program to relocate settlers living on dangerous riverbanks got curtailed because the money had not yet been spent, and did not fit the SC’s legalistic definition of “savings”. You mean THAT kind of political bad faith?

      The criticisms of the president, on the other hand, come from where? Estrada, UNA spokespeople, leftists . . . every one with an agenda OTHER than the stability and growth of the Philippines.

      But, as we both are reading what we see, perhaps you see something that I am missing. I’d love to be enlightened.

      But for sure, even if we set aside our disagreement on the assumptions, the Supreme Court rulings coming down the pike will determine whether the Philippines moves forward or backward. They will make grave mistakes if they read words legalistically narrow, rather than look at intents. If they smash the visitation agreement and the Bangsamoro peace agreement as they smashed DAP.

  5. macspeed says:

    @Joe Am,
    We Filipinos are lucky to have you as a live wire ready to give wisdom to these people power leaders, wake up guys!!!

    True indeed, it seems like these justices are reading the contents of the law and giving its decision per the verbal meaning of it. The Holy Bible cannot be understand by simple reading of one phrase without reading the other phrase far away from a certain section. Summary of the Holy Bible, means love and devotion to God Almighty then everything will be simple. My point is the Constitution summary is for the benefit of the Nation and its people. Well the members of the Supreme Court (SC) seem has aged without knowing the true meaning of the Law, however it is written, it summarizes to the well being of the Nation and its people. Where is the Logic claiming the DAP is unconstitutional without looking at the outcome of its implementation which is development. Because of that unconstitutional decision on DAP, now BIR were asking SC members SALN, now what? Instead of positive decision for DAP now they are in the hot seat.

    These Judiciary, Executive and the Congress members should work hand in hand for development of the Nation, it seems every good act of the current government is a political propaganda for the opposition and they could not accept development is good for the country but they always think they will be on the losing end comes election time if the current growth continues, so they always criticize to bring some negative impact, poor service for the nation, these type of politician should be eliminated by not voting them for their next ambition, otherwise, Philippines will never ever able to get up from failure…woe to the Philippines…

    • Joe America says:

      Yes indeed, I fear there are people power leaders who have lost the way. And it does seem like the court is marching to its own beat, and has no framework of national good. Like, can’t find national good anywhere in the Constitution. All the acrimony does get tiresome.

  6. Dolly Gonzales says:

    How refreshing to come across your blog! It’s made me realize that I’ve been habitually practicing “defensive reading”…

    It seems I unconsciously go into separate-the-wheat-from-the-chaff mode when I read the news — mindful of propaganda, reading between the lines depending on who writes what, ferreting out any hidden agenda, marveling with detached amusement at the logical gymnastics that common sense is often forced to perform.

    (It is a lot of fun, though, not really complaining. Philippine politics is like my own teleserye. I watch all the actors, observe events (ready to take to the streets if necessary), quietly write to decision-makers when they’re not seeing an important point clearly enough, post an online comment occasionally without debating with anyone, but am generally content to keep my thoughts to myself.)

    I’ve gotten so accustomed to defensive reading that, when I came across this blog entry, I felt a sensation of relief. Actual, physical relief. No tiresome logical gymnastics, just incisive, uncluttered observations which clearly distinguish between what/who is good and what/who is not.

    Best of all, I share your view on everything here, haha! 🙂 It’s as if someone has read my simple thoughts and expressed them elegantly.

    I think those who truly, selflessly love the Philippines recognize in your writing that same love of country. How wonderful of you! 🙂

    I only wish I’d stumbled upon this page sooner…

    • Joe America says:

      Why thank you, Dolly. I’m glad that you found us, too. Welcome to our honorable Society, where we have no axes to grind except teaching and learning and working to contribute in some small way to the rise of the Philippines.

      I’m glad you raised the term “defensive reading”, because it does become that, doesn’t it? That is really tiresome. I have stopped reading Rappler – put them on “suspension” not permanently junked – because I get so upset at the editorial slurs within news reports. And I have stopped going to Inquirer discussion threads because they invariably break down into camps of trolls going at one another, rather than any listening to go along with the speaking.

      This blog is rather an oasis, I think. Kudos to all the contributors for that. Good people speaking earnestly, and not trying to win arguments by tearing others down.

      • Dolly Gonzales says:

        Thanks for the warm welcome! 🙂 I feel like I’ve been living under a rock. Everyone knows about this blog, except me… Excited to read earlier entries.

        PS. Oasis is absolutely right 🙂

      • Jolly Cruz says:

        Joe I share dolly’s sentiments. you are such a refreshing breeze of rationality in this atmosphere of hatred, discontent and selfish interests which hide under the guise of nationalism. These so-called nationalists do not really care about the fate of the country. What they want is to push their own agenda, nothing more, noting less.

  7. cha says:

    The country has come to the proverbial fork in the road. One direction ensures the continuation of the journey towards good governance started by President Aquino and the other a mere rerouting back to the old ways.

    The Supreme Court justices are like the traffic lights that stand in the middle of the road, they’re not going anywhere themselves but are keen to be the ones controlling the flow of traffic to either side.

    President Aquino wants to have the traffic lights checked as it seems to be unreasonably slowing down the flow of traffic on his side of the road.

    VP Binay and his mayor son, on the other hand, want to borrow money to build a more expensive “green” set of lights with their family name prominently displayed on them. 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      Nice characterization of the Court. It is interesting that they are more interested in control – or power – than helping the nation along. That is disturbing. That of itself is old school.

      The Senate “parking garage hearing” is rather like peeking under a rock. Things are crawling out.

      • cha says:

        How Jardeleza’s entry can change the dynamics within the high court also bears watching. I find it curious that the “anti-Aquino” justices are the ones that favored his inclusion among the nominees considered by Aquino.

        On yesterday’s hearing, I think (hope!) there’s another Binay blog itching to come out of Joeam’s keyboard.

        • Joe America says:

          Jardeleza gives me great pause, especially considering his exclusion of a large island from the Philippine ITLOS claim. WHY? President Aquino must know something we don’t.

          As for the hearing, I think it is excellent hands with Trillanes and Cayetano busy running for president at Binay’s expense. I confess to a kind of snickering enjoyment of the situation, a couple of shades short of bitter glee. I didn’t see the hearing first hand so have no wisdoms to add beyond what I read in the papers. Maybe I can pick it up next session.

  8. brianitus says:

    Just to clarify: With the ruling on DAP, did the SC ever mention that the administration are liable for any offenses? If not, why not just move on? If they can’t move on, is it more out of a bruised ego? I certainly hope it is not that trivial. Was it how media presented it?

    Oh, and maybe, the president should be careful of what he says. Told you two blogs ago, fishing expedition. Was it worth it? I think only Mar Roxas benefited from those presidential statements. At least he didn’t sound stupid with his pronouncements of a second term for PNoy.

    I just want to sound naive right now:

    1. Is the SC the sole barricade against progress? Is he treating the SC as his new GMA?
    2. The article link you shared with the power plant is from a decision 2 years ago. While we know that power plants do not appear magically, was that denied project the only ace up the sleeve of the Aquino admin? I certainly hope that it’s not the only plan. Imagine what investors would think.
    3. Is he a one-trick pony? So far, why am I getting an impression that this admin always gets caught with its trousers down? No Plan B?

    An observation: Propaganda evolved from good versus evil to good versus enemies of progress, re-positioning everybody against Aquino as an “enemy of progress.” Last time I checked, all citizens are stakeholders, including the opposition. If a concern or fear is valid, to what extent are they addressed other than being branded as an “enemy of progress” and an “ally of corruption”? There will always be those we consider extreme, moderates, and neutrals.

    Anyway, can’t they do a dialogue and settle on middle ground? Two years to go. Settle down and plan with everyone. Last time I checked, the Philippines will still be on the map after 2016.

    Context is tricky business. If your audience doesn’t get it, maybe you should check the message. Don’t blame the audience.

    • Joe America says:

      Context is indeed a tricky business. So is ignorance, which is the place from which most of us operate, yet we are inclined to make strong decisions from that base. You are right, the president has the responsibility to make his message clear. He spent a good deal of time on July 14th trying to do just that and people came away saying he was angry and trying to be a dictator. Because they had not read the Court’s decision, or understood how much of himself he has invested in trying to do the right thing. I think the audience has a responsibility to try to get into the other guy’s shoes and read things well. Both speaker and audience have a responsibility.

      The supreme court did imply criminal liability for misspending money, as I understand it. Just a step short of outright theft. And any government employee from Cory Aquino to today who had anything to do with spending money improperly is also guilty. It was truly a weird finding, ignoring that all presidents have done pretty much the same thing. As President Aquino said during his speech, he parked in a parking space to try to help someone, the SC came up after he had parked, put a no parking sign there, and found him guilty of a crime for helping someone.

      Legalisms in the Philippines are tricky and detailed and any judge can and has ruled different ways on the same evidences. There is precious little reliable case law. Rulings are done, undone, redone, and undone again. The court on the DAP case could have started with the broad constitutional mandate of Executive – huge responsibilities – and with the recognition that discretionary choices are a part of the job. Even the Courts have a discretionary fund, fer God’s sake. They could have ruled that Executive misread the law (what constitutes “savings” being a big issue) but there was “no harm” because the intent, and the result, were both good. But they didn’t start with the big picture. They started with the small, that savings were applied wrong, and built bad faith on top of that, and criminality.

      If this is the way Executive has to work then all is lost. The addendum to the article shows the problems. Any project can be stopped for any objection. And frequently that happens. Laws passed by a well-intentioned Congress go directly to the SC and are gutted. Well, the Bangsamoro agreement treads the very edges of constitutionality. People have been working diligently for months, the best attorneys and legislators and Executive staffers around. If the Supreme Court finds one little legalism wrong, they will stop the whole thing. And peace will end.

      It is the lack of profound vision and wisdom in interpreting law that is missing from the Court. The Jeffersonian knack of getting at important meanings. The Supreme Court does overreach by starting with the details and building whatever they want on top of that. It’s a horror, truly. Judicial context that advocates for a better Philippines is lost. And instead the Court nit-picks, accountability free.

      • edgar lores says:

        1. Powerful
        2. Profound
        3. Purrfect (But only because I can’t say the word.)

      • brianitus says:

        Hey, Uncle Joe.

        Unclear messages. It’s a good thing that our president’s appear that they don’t aspire to be leaders quoted in books.

        It’s ironic that the admin, the one that started the ball rolling with strict disbursement of funds, to be the one to fall prey to its own devices. My take is that the admin should do a better job living up to its own standards. For me, it does not really make sense to say that previous presidents had been doing the same thing when the admin had been saying that the past presidents got it all wrong. I guess they got in trouble by giving the old MO a new name — DAP. I also guess that the difference with the old and new is that no one seriously challenged the old system. Honestly, I originally thought that the SC would sit on that issue or side with the admin.

        Should they always get the big picture? That sounds a bit like the end justifies the means. Applying it in a broad sense, what’s the favorite line of every petty crook — I had to do it for my family or whatever good intent. That’s why I always ask if that was the only way. Were they short in methods?

        As for the court, they did screw up deals before. I guess dealmakers can only improve on their craft or get rid of the court. Plus, it doesn’t help to have a constitution that was a “reaction” to what a dictator did to this country. I don’t know if this is a fair assessment: I am not familiar if there were too many left-leaning members of the Con-Com for the 1987 constitution.

        One thing is clear for this ordinary citizen: government business is hard. One must be crazy to want to run it. I guess we owe those nutty enough our internet existence. lol.

        I wonder, would a JoeAm blog exist if things in the Philippines were way better than how you’re seeing it today?



        • Joe America says:

          It is always good to argue with an alert young whippersnapper. Numerous substantive points you raise.

          On the most trivial, I think from time to time that I can retire from blogging because the nation is in such good shape, and then a Binay pops off and I say not just yet. Not just yet.

          The President came in tight-fisted in 2010 because he saw the negligence in many of the Arroyo projects, so he stopped spending on them. Then he had a sluggish economy and lots of money, so he decided to deploy the money. That is not a bad thing. That is a good thing. He jacked up the economy and it is now rolling. Whereas some of Arroyo’s large discretionary choices (allegedly) went to bad investments (road signs, corruption), Mr. Aquino’s have gone to good investments (roads, airports). The chart of infrastructure spending is amazing, a steady climb so that now the Philippines spends three times as much for infrastructure as Arroyo did in her best year. You don’t see the roadwork? In our area, the whole network is being rebuilt. Lots of jobs. Did you read about Hong Kong and Singapore no longer able to recruit Filipino OFW’s so easily? They are staying in the Philippines. Discretion can be used poorly or used well. But a CEO HAS to have it to do his job.

          Courts should always start with the broadest INTENT and work down. Any act should be done with an understanding of its environment. In a context. Do that well, and soon case law falls into line as having integrity. The integrity of the context. Outside of context, no principles develop. Facts and biases just run into one another.

          There were definitely left-leaning members of the 1987 constitution. It is almost a socialist document . . . but that is a different blog.

  9. gerverg1885 says:

    I think the best thing to do in this kind of situation is to abolish the Executive and Legislative branches and let the Judicial branch write, interpret and execute what they think is the best way of running a government.

    Animosity and anger would surely be prevented and no one will raise a howl since everything the SC will decide on would be final and executory.

  10. letlet says:

    One qualification the Supreme Court Justices must have equipped themselves is experience tested by obstacles / barriers ( sufferings / hardship in life) that give them a common touch and a sense of compassion, an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live – a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on Supreme Court.

    Because they are living in a world of their own with all the money and luxuries in life, a huge departure from the lives of the poor, they have no empathy for those living below the poverty line. The DAP which SC made unconstitutional sever the life blood of the common people. PNoy has gone from countryside to countryside having astounding experiences to witness how the poor people live. Has any of our respected SC Justices been to different provinces,towns and villages to observe how the indigent masa live? If they haven’t no wonder the good faith of PNoy has been gleaned as bad faith.

    Also questionable to me is how the SC on their past rulings have upheld, modified or overturned lifesaving laws. It seems, along the line, they lack mastery of the laws of the land. Are we having competent and qualified SC Justices?

    I, myself, have no qualms in giving PNoy a second term because of his parental background, personal financial affairs, public record, professional and character credentials. No fear of him becoming a dictator.

    • Joe America says:

      The Court does seem to be lacking a certain measure of human sensitivity. I had not thought about that, and that may be one of the barriers to broader thinking, a wholesomeness that the broader legal principles usually flow from. I agree that President Aquino has a completely different set of drives from the normal trapos. Strip the negativity of the crooks, the political opponents, and the extreme leftists out of the picture, and this nation would actually feel uplifted for probably the first time in history.

  11. vernon says:

    Hi Joe,

    What a wonderful briefing on media framing and its consequences this piece is. You sound a bit frustrated on stressing on context and I can not really blame you.

    All of us know that the local media is there to serve vested interests. You do not have to dig that deep; just look at their editorial boards. Appropriate context is never really considered by media companies when they put their versions of the news out there for public consumption. This happens even in the US and Europe; it’s a circus of sorts in England; and in Germany you will easily recognize the media bus their news is riding on. For countries where media is silently regulated (Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei are good examples of these “la-la lands”), the term independent media is non-existent.

    Philippine media is not an exception. Reporting is targeted towards the non-discerning but really big portion of the audience. Then these are further “refined” by the so-called opinion columnists which are dime-a-dozen in the country. They create the spin to elicit the required “public opinion” hence creating the desired “noise”. You would know them because they have been around since the early Marcos years. Some people sell insurance; these guys sell their souls.

    Thanks to blog sites like yours and Raissa’s (mentioning hers with your permission), that intelligent discussions on media events take place.

    For somebody who is an American discussing local politics, may I say, you really got guts, sir. I’m glad I picked up the late Billy Esposo’s recommendation of your site some few years back (he was a brief acquaintance and is sorely missed). Since then, never a dull moment.

    Keep going.


    • Joe America says:

      It was Billy who launched me from being a personal blogger to one with a wee amount of influence. I share your missing of his wisdom and thoughtful pieces.

      I will be doing a blog on Monday that examines hidden agendas in the media. I am indeed frustrated on the point of editorializing that takes place within headlines and news articles. And I have this overarching vision of how the sensationalist press plays a key role in keeping the nation divided and focused on complaint. So, among several themes I have developed, pushing back against this and reaching for the positive that people OUGHT to be finding here is a new one. The media are in my verbal gunsights. News media, mainly. The entertainment component here is actually quite good.

      • Joe America says:

        p.s., oh, yes, please do cite or put in links in from Raissa’s fine blog, or other articles you find that are pertinent to the discussion. In my book, Raissa runs the best blogging operation in the Philippines, and others also have a lot of wisdom to contribute. It was thoughtful of you to ask.

  12. anibongpalm says:

    I hope this article gets disseminated all over the Philippines. I have done my share by reblogging it. Joe America has so much wisdom and common sense, which the Philippine Supreme Court is bereft of. Much kudos.

  13. Percy says:

    Joe Philippines!

  14. josephivo says:

    Kafka and New Speak, two skills Filipinos master as nobody else. A senior official as Kim Henares, chasing for billions of taxes from the most powerful in the country, makes 48,000 peso a month, gross. Same for all other civil servants, judges, teachers, police, politicians… none of them makes enough to live in a decent house, drive a car and send kids to school, but all do. And we all know how, just as we know that a CR is not always the most comfortable room in the house or a GRO is seldom an officer.

    If the President wants to eradicate all corruption, he will have to send all these officials to shanty towns, close most private schools, close most malls, petrol stations… because so many of customers will go bankrupt. So for many creative language has to be used to try to survive. The President has to twist language to hide the consequences of his actions for so many. All justices as expert at it, keeping their lifestyle and not the country is their priority.

    Now comes an American who speaks as straight language. Refreshing indeed.

    • Joe America says:

      Why thank you, Joseph. Coming from a guy who is not afraid to challenge wrongheaded ideas himself, that means a lot.

      • R.Hiro says:

        Once again Joe, you are completely off base. Jeffersonian ideals about the Constitution????? Also after reading several World Bank reports for the period 2011-2014, I still have not found anything that refers to DAP as jump starting the economy.

        Your statement borders on being disingenuous.

        Jefferson was responsible for the Declaration of Independence borrowing from John Locke on the ideals of limited representative government and non-interference in the market.

        While James Madison Jr. and Alexander Hamilton were the two men with help from others that were responsible for the U.S. Constitution.

        Hamilton headed the Federalist Party while later Madison and Jefferson formed the Democratic-Republican Party. The main struggle then was the push and pull between equal sovereignty between the States and the then embryonic national government. It was unfortunate then during the drafting of the U.S. constitution that the national government was not yet strong enough to insist on exclusive sovereignty over the States and this was later settled through armed conflict between the central government and the seceding States.

        Another gem from the pcij and Emmanuel de Dios….


        De Dios himself recently wrote about DAP. In his column in the BusinessWorld newspaper, he said DAP at core is about politics, politicians, and citizens leveling up to a new order — following the rules.

        “On the surface,” wrote de Dios, “the effect is as if one was simply ‘restoring’ order in the relations among the branches of government as intended under the Constitution….Congress is supposed to have the ‘power over the purse’ and the President’s job is simply to implement legislative priorities.”

        But the Philippine government is in truth “not as neat and bundled,” he said. Legislative pork, de Dios noted, “has always existed under different names in all post-Marcos administrations and instituted in its current form under Cory Aquino’s budget ministry (a well-intended innovation by my colleague Ben Diokno).”

        He continued, “Which brings us to the point: if the Supreme Court is right about what the spirit and letter of the law say, why has practice deviated from it?

        Because “there are no long-lived organizations (read: political parties) capable of formulating national agendas and defining national priorities,” de Dios said, “in practice, only the President, controlling the large bureaucracy, can do that. It is then natural for the strategic function to devolve on him.”

        With legislators assuring their re-election “on local-level patronage… their function is reduced to that of fiscal brokers seeking to ensure their share of the national pie… uninterested in their responsibility for their theoretical ‘power over the purse’ (except for the odd occasion it can be used to extort concessions from the executive).”

        De Dios rued that “in current practice, for example, Congress hardly even knows how much ‘the purse’ contains: laws are enacted without the funding needed to implement them; budgets are passed without legislative regard for expected tax revenues, or the debt burden, or the resulting size of the budget deficit — all those things are passed on to the executive.”

        “(This), of course, is a flawed, imperfect order,” said de Dios. “(Yet) it is order nonetheless — serviceable in the case of a good president, though a free ticket to abuse by a bad one.”

        The Supreme Court’s ruling is a most important change trigger, he said. “If, as expected, the Court reaffirms its decision on the DAP, then — together with the abolition of ‘pork’ as we knew it — how shall Congress and the Executive henceforth relate to each other?”

        “On the one hand,” mused de Dios, “the institutional dissonance will seem to have been resolved: government is then constrained to function more closely to what the Constitution envisions. On the other hand, one must ask whether political actors (not ideally, but as they exist) can fulfill the tasks assigned them by such formal rules.”

        He then wrote: “Citoyens et citoyennes! We are in the midst of a revolution whose outcome is yet unknown — instigated ironically by a conservative and literalist Supreme Court.”

        “In a world of institutional dissonance, an insistence on strict formal rules can be disruptive,” conceded de Dios. But he also said that “in a good scenario, all will turn out for the best. There may be a growth hiccup or two in the near term, but ultimately members of Congress will up their game and find common ground with some presidential vision and each puts his shoulder to the wheel.”

        In time, he said it may even be possible for the media and the growing middle class to “become more focused on the quotidian business of politics and representation, progressing beyond their currently sporadic, scandal-driven interest.”
        “In short,” de Dios said, “the insistence on rules may yet provide a bridge to the country becoming a mature representative democracy. Who knows? The political class may yet ‘level up.’”

        • Joe America says:

          Jefferson poetic ideas about meanings of words, and principles of government. About context and reason and working toward good ends (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffersonian_democracy). The SC ruling damaged the nation, I believe that, by making the President seem a “culprit” in the poisoned PDAF pork environment. And I believe negative constitutional findings on the Bangsamoro Agreement will be absolutely devastating. To me, this is a Court without any wiggle room around narrow legalisms.

          I appreciate the link and brief on the de Dios article. It is balanced and rich with insight. It does indeed seem like a revolution in the making, of the relationship between Congress, Executive and the Court. I have consistently said DAP was an important transition tool to move from Arroyo to Aquino and have never understood the outrage people express because the nation’s CEO can direct investments to highest and best use. At least the article recognizes that there are those who agree with that view.

          The Court’s ruling on the Motion for Reconsideration will be a fascinating read, no matter what side they come down on. I expect them to stick with their original ruling, and I don’t think it is really a big deal anymore. The DAP program is done. Adjustments to process are being made.

          • Joe America says:

            Regarding DAP impact, I was going by Secretary Abad’s recitation of the benefits.

          • Joe America says:

            I was poking around looking for the economic impacts from DAP in response to your comment, and came across the timeline of events from 2010 to the 13-0 SC ruling. I find the narrative fascinating, for the sense that the clock moves too fast fast when you have a lot of money coming in and going out. And pressure from legislators to “stop accumulating savings and get the economy going”. Other things were going on during this period. The Corona trial. Storms. PDAF uproar. And the clock keeps ticking. I wonder who could have done it better. What the “better way” would have been.


            • R.Hiro says:

              Excerpts from the WB special focus on the DAP—-

              “Stepping Up Disbursements by Improving Absorptive Capacities in Agencies.

              “Weak public spending, especially in the first half of 2011, slowed down Philippine economic growth last year. In October 2011, the Aquino government launched the PhP 72 billion Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP). The DAP strategy entailed identifying slow-moving projects, including unspent allocations, and then realigning them to i) agencies that can quickly disburse funds, ii) programs and projects that have poverty reduction impact, and iii) programs and projects that have big multiplier effects. While the strategy helped to boost public spending in the last quarter of 2011, the mere realignment of funds does not guarantee sustained improvement in public spending to address growth and poverty targets. A long-term strategy should address internal bottlenecks in national government agencies, which include low absorptive capacity of agencies and weak monitoring and evaluation system, among others.”

              The permanent State and not simply the government in power has weak administrative capacities since previous governments to this one failed to address the need to build and sustain a functioning State. It boils down still to a serious cultural impediment of a serious lack of national sentiment.

              Granted the present one came in with an election slogan and turned it into policy… After four years they have barely scratched the surface and now realize they have no more time.

              The guy had a mandate for bold action. It is a damn shame….

              • R.Hiro says:

                The simple import of the WB analysis is accelerating spending through realignment is like throwing shit on the wall hoping it may stick….

                The most serious problem being put under the rug…..OK whop is next on the scandal parade “”Jacobins” do their thing…

        • edgar lores says:

          The de Dios view is neither theory nor reality. Historically, the budgeting process has always been within the purview of the Executive, with Congress having some inputs but mainly acting as budget reviewer and approver.

          Section 22, Article VII, The Executive: “The President shall submit to the Congress, within thirty days from the opening of every regular session as the basis of the general appropriations bill, a budget of expenditures and sources of financing, including receipts from existing and proposed revenue measures.”

          Section 25, Article VI, The Legislative Department. “(1) The Congress may not increase the appropriations recommended by the President for the operation of the Government as specified in the budget. The form, content, and manner of preparation of the budget shall be prescribed by law.”

          Supreme Court DAP Decision:

          “The budget process in the Philippines evolved from the early years of the American Regime up to the passage of the Jones Law in 1916. A Budget Office was created within the Department of Finance by the Jones Law to discharge the budgeting function, and was given the responsibility to assist in the preparation of an executive budget for submission to the Philippine Legislature.

          “As early as under the 1935 Constitution, a budget policy and a budget procedure were established, and subsequently strengthened through the enactment of laws and executive acts. EO No. 25, issued by President Manuel L. Quezon on April 25, 1936, created the Budget Commission to serve as the agency that carried out the President’s responsibility of preparing the budget.

          “CA No. 246, the first budget law, went into effect on January 1, 1938 and established the Philippine budget process. The law also provided a line-item budget as the framework of the Government’s budgeting system, with emphasis on the observance of a “balanced budget” to tie up proposed expenditures with existing revenues. CA No. 246 governed the budget process until the passage on June 4, 1954 of Republic Act (RA) No. 992, whereby Congress introduced performance-budgeting to give importance to functions, projects and activities in terms of expected results. RA No. 992 also enhanced the role of the Budget Commission as the fiscal arm of the Government.

          “The 1973 Constitution and various presidential decrees directed a series of budgetary reforms that culminated in the enactment of PD No. 1177 that President Marcos issued on July 30, 1977, and of PD No. 1405, issued on June 11, 1978. The latter decree converted the Budget Commission into the Ministry of Budget, and gave its head the rank of a Cabinet member. The Ministry of Budget was later renamed the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) under EO No. 711. The OBM became the DBM pursuant to EO No. 292 effective on November 24, 1989.”

        • Joe America says:

          One can best get a feel for Jeffersonian principles by reading his letters, often private and therefore sharply candid.

          Here’s his pithy observation of a Supreme Court that does not play a constructive role:

          I. Judicial usurpation in constitutional matters

          A subtle corps of sappers and miners

          —– To T. Ritchie, 1820

          The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a coordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone. This will lay all things at their feet . . . We shall see if they are bold enough to take the daring stride their five lawyers have lately taken. If they do, then . . . I will say, that “against this every man should raise his voice,” and more, should uplift his arm . . .

          Having found, from experience that impeachment is an impracticable thing, a mere scarecrow, they consider themselves secure for life; they sculk from responsibility to public opinion . . . An opinion is huddled up in conclave, perhaps by a majority of one, delivered as if unanimous„and with the silent acquiescence of lazy or timid associates, by a crafty chief judge, who sophisticates the law to his mind, by the turn of his own reasoning . . .

          A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone, is a good thing; but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government.


          Here is an index of excerpts from his various letters for those who would want to try to get inside the head of a man who spent his life developing important principles to abide by, both personally and for governments: http://www.barefootsworld.net/tjletters.html

  15. Jun M Sarmiento says:

    Nice article Joe.

    Effectiveness is power with accountability.

    Judicial overreach is judicial power without accountability.

    Leaving the Exec with accountability with no power.

    Jun M. Sarmiento

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