Letters to the Editor

The 1987 Administrative Code

The Philippine Star

Dear Elfren (Cruz),

I’ll be much obliged if you can publish this correction in your next column before the subject becomes stale in light of your statement that “the Administrative Code was drafted by  Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo and approved by President Corazon Aquino.”

I wish this were true because it would take a lawyer of immortal proportion to single-handedly draft an Administrative Code, which, by its original title alone, “Organization, Powers and General Administration of Philippine Government” is a daunting task. It is second to the Constitution as the bible for the operation of the government.

The first Administrative Code was enacted by the 1st Philippine Legislature in 1916 (Act No. 2657), “By authority of the United States” under the colonial government, and it was the manual for the government operations from 1918 to 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines from 1935-1946; and the Republic of the Philippines from 1946-1987. In short, it lasted for 70 years and after numerous amendments.

Attempts were made after the country regained her independence in 1946 to recodify and rid it of its archaic provisions. All these failed because of the breadth, depth, and complexity of its interlocking provisions.

Witness the whereas clauses of Executive Order No. 292, the Administrative Code of 1987

“WHEREAS, the Administrative Code currently in force was first forged in 1917 when the relationship between the people and the government was defined by the colonial order then prevailing;

“WHEREAS, efforts to achieve an integrative and overall recodification of its provisions resulted in the Administrative Code of 1978 which, however, was never published and later expressly repealed;

“WHEREAS, the effectiveness of the Government will be of optimum benefit to the people and Government officers and employees as it embodies changes in administrative structures and procedures designed to serve the people”;

Came EDSA and Cory’s ascendancy to the presidency.

The 1987 Constitution was ratified and the post-EDSA Eighth Congress was then about to convene; and the country was stuck with the 1917 Administrative Code. However, there was an administrative code which was started and almost complete but was overtaken by martial law.

President Aquino was thus confronted with two choices:

1. Ignore the clamor for a new administrative code and let the incoming Congress enact a new one; or

2. Sign into law the administrative code which was started and almost completed but was overtaken by martial law and let Congress correct its deficiencies, if any.

The President chose the second option. However, she was aware that from 1946 to 1972, Congress had tried but failed to enact a much needed revised Code. At least, the country would have a new and relevant administrative code and Congress can just remedy any deficiency it finds, rather than leave the country in a vacuum without a manual for government operations.

I cannot imagine what you wrote that the inimitable Rene Saguisag had concurred with your know-it-all informant’s opinion. Rene had resigned from his post as the President’s counsel in February, ran for the Senate and inconceivably gave up his signed appointment to the Supreme Court. (He could have been a Chief Justice had he assumed his position in the Court.) He was no longer around in Malacañang when the Administrative Code was being discussed in July 1987. Only the redoubtable lawyers team of Teddy Boy Locsin, future Justices Fleri Ruth Romero and Adolf Azcuna, Dodo Sarmiento, and Bobby Lucila remained as the President’s legal brain trust, as well as the President’s think-tank, the Presidential Management Staff, ably headed by Secretary Elfren Cruz.

From the outset of the DAP scandal, I have always maintained that Malacañang and the DBM’s reliance on the two sections of the 1987 Administrative Code to justify DAP was utterly off-tangent.

With every good wish. — JOKER ARROYO










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