The vast powers of the President
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - October 1, 2020 - 12:00am

I learned from my political law professor that among the three main branches of the government, the legislative looks at the future, and influences it by enacting laws to direct the course of the nation forward. The judiciary looks at the past, reviews decisions and actions in the light of law and jurisprudence. Only the executive, led by the president, focuses on the present and makes decisive actions, here and now.

To be effective, it is imperative that the president, as head of state and head of government, should be amply empowered to grapple with manifold and multifarious demands for decisions and immediate actions. He is in charge of foreign affairs, the chief architect of foreign policies and he also takes full responsibility of national security, and all eyes of 110 million Filipinos are on him to respond with flawless efficiency, and with a sense of urgency and precision. He has the whole nation to lead and all the ranges of problems to solve. He is the commander-in-chief of all armed forces. The hundreds of thousands of military and police officers and men take his command without any question or equivocation.

The constitution mandates that only the president has the power to appoint Cabinet secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, bureau directors and regional directors, as well as all other high level government officials. He also appoints presidents and chairmen as well as board members of all government-owned and controlled-corporations. He has complete control over his appointees and can fire them with or without reason anytime and anywhere. He also appoints ambassadors and public ministers and consuls and deploys them to any and all countries and international bodies like the UN, the WHO, ILO and other international bodies. He appoints judges of the regional trial courts as well as justices of the court of appeals, court of tax appeals and the Supreme Court, as well as chairs and members of COA, COMELEC and CSC.

As commander-in-chief, the president can call out the military to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion, and the military officers and men are bound to obey him or be court-martialed. In case of invasion or rebellion, he may suspend the privilege period of 60 days when the public safety requires it, or even place the whole country or any part thereof under martial law. There are now limitations of these powers, which used to be almost absolute under President Ferdinand Marcos. His powers to pardon criminal convicts are almost total, except only in matters of impeachment and election cases. The president has the power to contract foreign loans or guarantee them in the name of the republic.

As president, General Aguinaldo ordered the rag tag trial of Andres Bonifacio and approved his execution for alleged treason. As president of the commonwealth, president Quezon sent a mission to the US to negotiate for the Philippine independence. As president, Sergio Osmena Sr. appointed Sotero Cabahug of Cebu, as secretary of public works and communications, and Alfredo Montelibano of Negros, as secretary of national defense. President Laurel signed the Laurel-Langley Agreement allowing all Americans to exploit and use our natural resources. President Roxas allowed the Americans to put up Clark and Subic bases and hundreds of others all over the country. All the presidents later from Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia and Macapagal allowed the bases to stay.

President Marcos shortened the life of the bases from Roxas' 99 years to only 50 years. It was at the time of President Cory that the Senate, by a majority of only one vote, decided not to renew the US Bases agreement. The presidents had their own reasons and we do not question them. Our point is pure and simple. The Philippine president is such a very powerful one. He can make or unmake many, many things.

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