FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2016 - 9:00am

All of Panay Island is agog over a text message sent out last week by a lawyer. The text message announced Exequiel Javier would return to the Capitol the next day.

Soon after, a local radio station owned by Javier himself elaborated on the news. As if reading from a hard copy of the SC decision, radio commentators claimed the Comelec decision disqualifying Javier from sitting as governor was overturned by a vote of 11-0.

There was a problem with this piece of news, however. No SC decision on the Javier v. Comelec case has been issued.

Either Javier, who seems too eager to grab his old post, was the victim of a very bad joke or he has some special access to SC drafts that have yet to be signed by the justices.

Whatever the real story behind this grossly premature announcement, Javier has some serious explaining to do.

The High Court does not take leakages of its internal documents lightly – especially in this case where braggarts in Antique are claiming the decision was won at a cost of P10 million per vote.

A short time ago, the SC even formed a special investigating committee to look into the leak of a draft electoral decision. Apparently, the investigating committee traced the source of the draft. When that particular justice retired, several of his colleagues skipped the ceremonies in his honor.

The draft being bandied about by the Javier camp in Antique must be looked at closely by the SC. Perhaps an internal investigating committee, such as was formed for similar incidents in the past, might be formed for this case.

Meanwhile, the source of the excited text message has been identified. Panay News, quoting former Antique governor Salvacion Zaldivar Perez, traces the source of the text as lawyer Eduardo Fortaleza. Perez says Fortaleza is already facing disbarment cases. This latest hoax might just add to those.

It turns out Fortaleza is running for vice-governor this May. The incident involving an internal SC document could undo that ambition.

When any party to a case gains access to draft decisions, this sounds alarm bells. The leakage of internal documents compromises the integrity of the High Tribunal. It raises all sorts of suspicions about the propriety of magistrates.  It undermines public trust in the highest court of the land.

If the draft is a hoax, the perpetrator ought to be cited in contempt of the Court. If the draft is a real internal document, this becomes an even more serious concern. How could interested parties to a case gain such anomalous access to internal documents?

We leave it to the High Court, of course, to determine what needs to be done in this case.

Executive style

When Vice President Jejomar Binay headed the HUDCC, there was a proposal to raise contribution rates from Pag-IBIG Fund members to lengthen its actuarial life.

Feeling that raising contribution rates would further diminish the take-home pay of wage-earners, the Vice President asked officers administering the fund to work harder and look for other ways to extend the life of the fund.

In a couple of years, Pag-IBIG Fund membership was raised from 8.5 million to 15 million. Collection efficiency was dramatically improved. The life of the fund was extended without adding to the burdens of its members.

This detail underscores the stark difference in the executive styles of President Aquino and Vice President Jejomay Binay.

When the legislated increase in SSS pensions was being discussed in Congress, Aquino did nothing. His Presidential Legislative Liaison Officer did nothing. The measure simply treaded its way through the legislative mill, raising expectations among the retirees, only to be vetoed in the end in a manner that induced protests and cultivated bitterness.

The President, if he had the work ethic and anticipatory management skills, might have intervened earlier. He might have convened the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) and worked out with the legislators an alternative approach to improving pension levels without raising contribution rates. He could have asked the SSS to figure out a way to do so without having to resort to legislated pension increases.

Raising pensions, like raising wages, by way of legislation is in itself an extreme measure. Anticipatory management should ensure it does not come to that.

I am not sure about the records, but people are suggesting that Aquino has vetoed more legislative measures than all his post-Edsa predecessors combined. That is an extremely wasteful habit.

A presidential veto is always wasteful. All the millions in public money spent to underwrite the work of legislation is simply thrown out the window when a bill is vetoed. A president who controls both chambers of Congress through the ruling party has no reason to veto anything. All he has to do is to work hard so that money is not wasted in pointless legislative posturing.

Congress did not have to pass a law raising pensions. That is not its work. It is an insult to the executive branch that Congress did that, because pensions can always be adjusted by presidential fiat. But since the executive branch has done nothing, Congress found it necessary to legislate pension increases.

Perhaps it is true that the actuarial life of the SSS fund will be shortened by raising pensions --- even if doing so is now absolutely necessary.  But that is only if the SSS does nothing, which seems to be its inclination.

Now the private sector is volunteering help by offering to raise employer contributions to offset pension increases. Unfortunately, the offer comes too late to save Aquino from the political fallout from his veto.

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