The grave problems confronting the country today will persist and worsen for as long as there are no checks and balances between the three branches of the government. The principle that the executive, legislative and judiciary should be co-equal, separate and independent from each other to check each other’s abuses is just theoretical and is not spelled out in the fundamental charter.
The preamble and declaration of principles in the present Constitution do not contain a definite statement about this precept. The exact parameters of the powers of the three departments and their relationships with each other are not expressly demarcated.
The three branches were minutely described only in Articles VI, VII and VIII of the 1987 Charter.
Let us take a realistic assessment of the state of affairs in the three branches and a close look at the whole government machinery as it is today.
But first let us see what is common to the three.
The executive, legislative and judicial arms of our government today are all ridden with graft and corruption, inept and desultory in delivering public services, and completely under the control of the rich and powerful elite.
Today, to get what you want in any transaction with any government agency, what is required are not supporting papers but the crisp 500- or 1000-peso bills. No one gets anything for free.
Since all the high public officials consider their positions as sources of livelihood, they cooperate with each other in looting the national treasury. While they snap at each other at times, the high officials of the three observe filial courtesies and protection for each other to put up a façade of honesty.
Let us start at the judicial branch.
It is the most inefficient among the three. Thousands of cases remain unresolved. The dockets of all branches of the judiciary are overloaded with criminal and civil cases.
Thousands have been victims of injustices by judges and justices who rendered decisions in favor of their kin, friends, and political patrons or in exchange for favors—in cash or in kind.
The saddest and most helpless victims of injustice are the poor and disadvantaged litigants. They are convicted , even if innocent, because they could not afford to pay the services of a lawyer or even post bail. In civil cases, those who have more money for the judge or justice get the favorable ruling.
The prosecution arm and prison administration bureaus are as susceptible to bribery and pressure from the rich and powerful. Prisoners are treated according to their “means.” Only the poor and penniless suffer long prison terms. The moneyed convicts are housed in luxurious quarters, allowed to run their business from inside, and to enjoy privileges, including sexual ones.
The legal profession may have become less attractive, but it remains lucrative.
Congress is no longer the policy-making body of the government since most of its members serve their own and not the interest of their constituents.
The 12 new senators added neither prestige nor brilliance to the holdover solons. Some of them were recycled, others were products of pure media hype, still others were helped tremendously by the president and one or two do not deserve to be there for lack of credentials and stature in the national scene.
Most of the members of the House of Representatives do not deserve to be there in the first place. Several of them paid and fed the voters. A number of them belong to established dynasties who consider the seat as a private preserve, part of an heirloom which only an immediate member of the family can inherit. Some feel at home and in their best element when back in the House of Representatives. We refer to the few who are veterans, serving for more than three terms.
Many of the party-list solons do not come from the sector they represent. Most just want to be socially elevated, financially comfortable, and eager to use the prefix “Honorable” with their names.
Both chambers are not honestly earning their salaries, paid for by taxpayers. They hold sessions in only a few months, for only three days a week, every year. Deliberations at plenary are only for a few hours. The 24 solons and the 300 representatives do not deserve their pay. And they still want to receive kickbacks from projects funded by pork inserted into their budget. (To be continued)