Presidential miscues are not jokes

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - September 13, 2018 - 12:00am

I have lived in Cebu City for a great part of my life, qualifying me as a Cebuano as anyone else. My political perception though is mine alone and I do not claim to represent the Cebuano mentality. It is important to make this disclaimer to clarify that I, alone, am responsible for any error I might commit in this column.

There is this doctrine called “qualified political agency.” Under this legal precept, all heads of the departments and offices in the executive department are, while duty bound and responsible to make their offices work, but adjuncts of the chief executive of the republic. If we’ll apply this doctrine to the daily operation of the Office of the President, we must assume that there are people obligated to provide the president with all information, upon which official pronouncements are issued by him.

As such, let me take two recent statements by President Rodrigo Duterte. The first was during his tete-a-tete with his legal adviser last Tuesday, a great part of which focused on a once-upon-a-time renegade soldier with Atty. Panelo serving as a virtual cannon fodder. Duterte said the basis for declaring null and void the amnesty given by former president Benigno Simeon Aquino III to Sen. Trillanes IV, was that it was approved by former secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin! He was unequivocal in saying that his case would rise or fall on that proposition. The power to grant amnesty is exclusively vested in the president and concurred by Congress. Duterte said that since it was Gazmin who approved that clemency, it was an absolute nullity and Trillanes should not be allowed to walk free.

Since Malacañang announced Proclamation No. 572, over a week ago, we learned of two reasons for nullifying the Trillanes amnesty. Accordingly, he failed to file an application for amnesty and did not acknowledge his guilt. A wise guy, walking in the corridors of power, saw to it that these are written in the document as the legal basis of the presidential fiat. Anyone wishing to know what infirmed the amnesty needs only to read the document. Lawyers call it best evidence.

I was shocked. The president’s verbal pronouncement confused me. I believe that one of his sub-alterns gave him another script. Duterte mentioned an entirely different thing that practically shredded to pieces his earlier written proclamation. Did he not know that the document supposedly voiding the Trillanes amnesty cited reasons other than what he said? Was he saying that the proclamation he signed was anchored on false citations, and should be disregarded?

The other pronouncement made recently by Duterte was his assertion that US President Donald Trump is the cause of our economic crisis. If Duterte referred to the spiraling prices of rice and other commodities as being caused by Trump, whoever factotum who supplied him such a crazy and incredible information must be very inventive. But he must be sacked for making Duterte look like an economic idiot. Well, there is his Secretary Manny Piñol, who continues to claim there is no rice shortage and, when the imported staple arrives, prices will go down! Driving home a poor man’s point of view, let me ask this in street lingo: Is Trump responsible for non-availability of rice? What did Trump do to triple the cost of the “talong” that I buy?

Qualified political agency is more than a cold constitutional law doctrine. It is dynamic live wire. Unfortunately, few political agents, whose offices are at the center of the presidential miscues, make the president appear like a blubbering blundering joke. Sad!


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