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The Rule of Law

February 15, 2008

THE rule of law is the fountainhead of all laws and rules enacted, created, and conceptualized for the protection of man— his life, liberty and property as guaranteed by our 1987 Constitution. It is based on both natural and moral law, simply because man, according to John Locke, has the natural right to the God-given rights of life, liberty and property, and that his rights are based on what is right and what is essential to his interests and his pursuit of happiness.

There can be no nation without rule of law. Otherwise right and rights no longer exist, a situation where only those who control state’s repressive apparatuses can only dictate what is right or legal, legitimate or illegitimate, moral or immoral. If this basis of proper laws, tenets and canons were rooted out by a tyrant who has no authority to govern, then all powers would fall into the hands of looters-by-law and criminals-by-right at the expense of the inalienable rights of the people.

It is important to examine the past, to see where we failed and— to identify the real enemy of the state. Contrary to the assumption of the government that the enemies of the state are the established institutions like press and some mainstream churches, it is now time to admit that Juan de la Cruz’s number 1 enemy is not just poverty, but the continued disregard of the law of law.

Rule of law is not just about justice and justice system, it is the alpha and omega of this nation. It is the most priced yet ignored capital by most of our politicians and businessmen, who naively put much premium on economy without even knowing what lies behind the figures and statistics reflected by the latter. How many onerous contracts with foreign countries/entities, ambitious projects backed by multi-billion loans and one-sided bi-lateral treaties only favorable to a partner-country, have been entered into by the government beyond the ambit of rule of law? The Bataan Power Plant died and perished with Marcos without even producing a single watt of electricity. What is more disappointing is that the government failed to ask the right question. Were the monies borrowed that financed this colossal failure inimical to interest of the Filipino people?

The Aquino administration could have long repudiated some of the immoral and illegitimate loans incurred by her predecessor if she chose to do so. In the name of altruism, she decided to make a supreme sacrifice by recognizing these immoral debts. She had the right to do so— to disclaim those debts— being a leader installed through people’s revolt. The former president could have brought back justice to the people by bowing to the rule of law and not to the rule of men.

Dr. Hertz, in her thought-provoking book, “The Debt Threat”, said that illegitimate debts should not be paid. She proposed three conditions which determine whether a debt is illegitimate: viz: (1) the government that incurred the debt lacked democratic consent; (2) the loans were used in ways that were inimical to the interests of the people; and (3) the creditor was aware that the loans would be used in such manner.

There is high economic penalty for every disregard of the rule of law. When a government enters into a contract with another country or any foreign entity, it has to observe the rule of law by considering national interest and the interests of the people. Today the government has entered into a number of economic undertakings not favorable to the nation and the people. One of them is the National Broadband deal allegedly attended by corruption and bribery, which could bilk the people out of millions of dollars in taxes. Another is the North Railway project allegedly marred by corruption and unfair provisions.

There’s also high political price for blatant contempt of the rule of law. The Hello, Garci controversy has cost the President a smooth sailing administration, thus depriving the people of not only competent and good leadership but of their true leader(s) as well. The election scandal has been the source of all constitutional violations committed by the Arroyo regime. To maintain her strong grip on power, the President let those accountable like former Agriculture secretary Joc-joc Bolante and former Comelec (Commission on Election) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano escape from inevitable investigation and possible conviction; gagged her trusted men from appearing on any inquiry by issuing Executive Order 464; gave the police authorities maximum tolerance in dealing with protesters via her calibrated preemptive response; put the entire country under state of emergency through Presidential Proclamation 1017; and signed a vague and ambiguous anti-terror bill that is detrimental to the rights of every suspected terrorist.

War, on the other hand, has both high human and economic cost. President Arroyo waged war on insurgency at the height of the Hello, Garci scandal and vowed to end it by 2010. Others called it diversionary tactic to deviate the attention of the public from the 2004 election scandal. A military document revealed the regime’s bellicose scheme to neutralize the Left by starting with partylist Bayan Muna. Another document entitled, “Know They Enemy”, also includes press people, churchmen, peasants, labor groups, and terrorist groups as enemies of the state.

Arroyo’s war on the “enemies of the state”, which is technically ongoing, was anchored on the United States’ global war on terror that altered the face of international law. The government would like to paint a picture that this country is under siege and that it has to fight its so-called enemies at the expense of the rights of the people and the lives of those marines and their counterparts killed in action in Basilan, including those of innocent civilians. The human cost of this ongoing war is really disheartening to mull over, and it doesn’t matter whether if it’s not real or if it is, because victory is not possible. This armed struggle, based on Orwellian concept, is not meant to be won; it is meant to be continuous. The politics of this government-waged internal strife is self-preservation, that is, to keep the very structure of Philippine society intact.

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