Our top searches for truth, 2018
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - December 29, 2018 - 12:00am

The brutal uprootal of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno

The Dengvaxia vaccination controversy

The resurrection of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo / the fall of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

The state visit of China’s Xi Jinping 

The averted arrest of Sen. Antonio Trillanes / the guilty verdict against Cong. Jovito Palparan / the independence of Regional Trial Court Judges Alexander Tamayo and Andres Soriano

The growing glossary of graft and their back stories: PDAF, Insertions, Fund Parking, Road Board

The charmed existence of favored franchisees Mislatel and Solar Philippines

The return of the Bells of Balangiga

The shabu smuggling scandal involving the Bureau of Customs and the PDEA 

The Boracay clean up

The convoluted course of Charter Change 

TRAINflation

The quadruple bypass of Antonio T. Carpio

The triumph of Bb. Pilipinas Catriona Gray as Miss Universe 2018

Cool hand Luke. Lucas Bersamin affirmed why he is Chief Justice material. First, he stamps his style of leadership on the men and women of the Judicial branch, reminding personnel to observe decorum in cellphone use and enforcing a dress code to help restore the institution’s diminished aura of formality. Next, he raises aloft the legal profession’s standard by the use of the Supreme Court pulpit to galvanize official action against the frenzied murder of lawyers under this administration. The latest were the broad daylight assassinations of Atty. Roel Batocabe, House Deputy Speaker and Party-list Congressman of Ako Bicol, and Atty. Benjamin Ramos of the National Union of People’s Lawyers. 

The Chief Justice is not the highest official in the land. But his is the highest position that requires membership in the bar as a constitutional qualification. 

By his act of calling for an immediate stop to the senseless killing of lawyers and his initiative in pressing for an independent investigation, he has morphed into not just the leader of the Court but also the role of de facto godfather of all his brother lawyers. 

This is a remarkable display of leadership from Chief Justice Bersamin. 

Unmanageable. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno this week again raised the spectre of declaring an unmanageable public sector deficit. This, should the Supreme Court refuse to reconsider its landmark decision in Mandanas v. Executive Secretary. The Court there reasoned that limiting the Local Government Unit (LGU) Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) to internal revenue taxes only violated the Constitution. Instead, the base – all this time – should rightly have included: customs tariffs and duties; percentages of: the VAT, national taxes collected in the ARMM, national taxes collected from the exploitation and development of national wealth, tobacco excise taxes, franchise taxes paid by the Manila Jockey Club and the Philippine Racing Club.

If the decision were upheld, LGUs would get an additional P160 billion in 2019. For Sec. Diokno, this nightmare scenario has been causing him even more sleepless nights than the pending House subpoena on the “mystery” insertions in the budget. 

At least, he was able to avert the disaster scenario of having the Mandanas decision apply retroactively. This was really the main relief sought by the LGUs. The Court applied the doctrine of operative fact to recognize that the previous interpretation, even if erroneous, did have legal imprimatur until it was corrected. So no arrears would be due. 

Had he lost on that one, estimates of the LGUs retroactive windfall go as high as P1.5 to P6 trillion dating back to the Code’s effectivity in 1992. Either scenario, whether nightmare or disaster, would impact on the country’s deficit position, compromise the Build3 program, downgrade our credit ratings and adversely affect international confidence.

Sec. Diokno is a veteran of almost all past local vs. national IRA battles. The declaration of an “unmanageable public sector deficit” would allow the President to implement a downward adjustment of IRA of up to 10%. 

Poor LGUs. They expected a retroactive application and didn’t get  it. Yes, they may have been awarded the expanded tax base. But even that they wont receive yet. What’s worse, their existing rates will now be reduced! 

Manageable. Sec. Diokno may seem like a man who has given up. But the Senate has come out against any such unmanageable deficit declarations. If truly needed, money will be found to fund the increased LGU shares. And they are willing to sit down and work with anyone to comb through the budget to produce it.  

Some are doubting that this may be a veiled attempt at influencing the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision in Mandanas. Perhaps, if the justices saw how the economy might be adversely affected by their ruling, they could be more parsimonious with their judgments. 

The first is far fetched; the second is a long shot. The ponente who wrote the Mandanas decision is Lucas Bersamin. I don’t see the Chief suddenly rushing to reconsider his landmark decision.

Random thoughts. Just as the President and his cohorts had resumed banging the drums for further lowering the age of criminal responsibility, this caught-on-video school bullying scandal shows up on our radar. The age of the minors involved occasioned a surge of interest on whether the juvenile justice law would apply, i.e. would the antagonist end up in jail or be subject to a community-based intervention program?

The analysis of the event is a story on its own. So is the intense reaction of society to the aberrant occurrence. But as for sending anyone to jail, how we can even think that when our jail facilities are clearly not adequate to house additional inmates? Before deciding to create yet another official classification of criminals, it would certainly be more expedient, not to mention humane, if our policy makers were to increase the capacity of our detention and correctional facilities to absorb the expected escalation of prisoners.

Happy New Year to all our readers!

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