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Ex-CJ Puno’s Charter Change Proposal: A Constitutional Insanity!

January 11, 2011

I wasn’t really surprised by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s endorsement of charter change or revision of the 1987 Constitution. In a speech he delivered after being conferred

Ex-CJ Puno and Pres. Aquino.

Ex-CJ Puno and Pres. Aquino.

an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by his alma mater at the celebration at the UP College of Law’s foundation centenary, Puno said that now is the “right time” to revise the Constitution “to arrest the decline of our democracy.”

Puno wants a perfect, “real democracy” in the Philippines? No, Puno. What we have is real democracy. We exactly have what we asked for when we implemented a protectionist, semi-socialist, democratic, statist Constitution in 1987. The political and economic ills that we experience and witness today is the result of our democratic political processes. Democracy simply means majority rule. The people asked for more government welfare. Well, we have it that’s why we now have more taxes and higher tax rates. That’s why we as a nation have sunk ourselves into eternal indebtedness. The people asked for more government controls and regulations in order to protect our local investors and our environment. Well, we have exactly that, as most foreign investors fell prey to bribery, corruption, ridiculous law suits, and government-induced breaches of contract.

This is what I actually posted on my Facebook’s status after reading the former Chief Justice’s statements on Inquirer.net:

This is a BIG NO! No Charter Change with the endorsement and support by this statist ex-Chief Justice. Education and health care are NOT a right, Puno! His proposal: Mandate education and health as rights “in the same manner as our civil and political rights are demandable from government.”

This is beyond INSANITY!!! This is nearly socialism without the abolition of property rights! This ex-CJ is INSANE!

Puno said in a press interview that he believed “it’s the best opportunity” to change the charter. “You cannot charge the President with any ill motive. The President is enjoying a very high trust rating and he himself has seen some of these difficulties in his first six months of presidency,” he said.

To support his proposal, he mentioned such problems in the seven points he deemed urgent to be amended in the charter, including those pertaining to weaknesses of the judiciary.

He observed that the judiciary is “not completely shielded from partisan politics”, as its finances relied on the approval of Congress. Believing that a judiciary that has to beg for finances is “anathema” to real democracy, he seeks an independent judiciary that is able to provide checks and balances in the government.

“A judiciary independent on paper but a pauper in reality is inimical to constitutionalism for it makes it easy for unscrupulous politicians to whip judges to join their hallelujah chorus,” Puno said.

He then described the judiciary’s budget as “indecent.”

Let me state that I don’t have any problem with Puno’s “independent judiciary” and “depoliticized” appointments of justices to the bench. These two proposals are consistent with the main, primary, crucial, indispensable purpose of the Constitution: to limit the powers of the government and to set how individual rights are to be protected.

He said that the “depolitization” of the appointing process in the judiciary can be achieved by removing the partisan influence of nominating members of the Judicial and Bar Council [JBC]—the justice secretary and representatives from the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“Unless we can remove this virus of partisan politics, molecule by molecule, to disinfect appointments to our judiciary, our system of checks and balances will never fully work,” Puno said.

The former chief justice also proposed a “declogging” of the Supreme Court’s docket, which should be the case. However, his proposal is that the high court should only be tasked with handling significant cases and must no longer be the final appellate ruler on cases of “grave abuse of discretion” against government officials. I find this proposal highly debatable since the judiciary must actually assume the role of a policeman of government.

The problem is, Puno rejects this notion, as he said: “There is no democracy in the world where the judiciary has been empowered to be the policeman of government.”

In the first place, democracy is evil as I explained in my previous blogs (here, here, here, here, and here). We don’t need a democracy, as it is an invalid concept. What we need is a representative Republican limited government with capitalism as its political-economic system.

Here’s Puno’s other proposals:

  • Make Congress more representative because marginalized sectors continue to be “underrepresented or unrepresented” in government. He said elections were expensive, won by “unenlightened” votes and tainted by fraud, resulting in a Congress that is “the domain of elites and dynasties.”
  • Mandate education and health as rights “in the same manner as our civil and political rights are demandable from government.”
  • Prevent a “gridlock” between the executive and legislative branches. He said incidents where Cabinet members refused to appear at legislative inquiries and instances of misuse of the congressional power to investigate must be prevented.
  • Expand the people’s right to a referendum to remove poorly performing public officials.

Let me state here that Puno’s most evil proposal is the proposed constitutional mandate that education and health care be made “rights” in the same manner that our civil and political rights are demandable from the government. Under the present setup, the Constitution, which consisted with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, guarantees the following perverted, distorted rights:

  • Right to full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all.
  • Right to land (to be realized and implemented through agrarian reform program).
  • Right of farmers, and landowners, as well as cooperatives, and other independent farmers to participate in the planning, organization, and management of the agrarian reform program.
  • Right to agricultural support and other state-funded services.
  • Right of subsistence and community fishermen to the preferential use of the communal and fishing resources.
  • Right to affordable and decent housing and basic services.
  • Right to affordable health and free medical care for paupers.
  • Right of working women to safe and healthful working conditions.
  • Right of independent people’s organizations to state protection.
  • Right of all citizens to quality and accessible education at all levels.
  • Right of every family to a family living wage and income.

The only good thing under the current political setup is that these alleged rights are largely NON-ENFORCEABLE in courts. This means that you cannot sue the government or your bureaucrats to provide you with free education, a house or health care when you don’t have one. Such alleged rights still require enabling legislation in order to make them enforceable. Also, the good thing about our Congress is that it has the good sense and prudence not to do anything drastic in order to fulfill the semi-socialist dreams of our Constitution framers.

Being a highly acknowledged legal expert, Puno should be the first to know and understand the proper concept of rights and the proper function of the government. He should be the first to know and understand that a “right” is a moral principle elucidating and warranting a man’s freedom of action in a social context. Man’s rights are only limited to his right to LIFE, LIBERTY, PROPERTY, and his PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. The concept of rights excludes and rejects man’s right to use force and compulsion. We all have the right to work and achieve our goals in life, but we don’t have the right to ask the government to provide us jobs by sacrificing private businesses and companies.

The legendary and most touted “right to free education” simply means the government must sacrifice a particular sector of our society in order to serve the welfare and the needs of a certain beneficiary sector. This is because the government has no depository of unlimited amount of goods and wealth. The government is not a productive agency, but an agency that relies on forced and not “voluntary” taxation, which is apparently an oxymoron. Puno’s proposal of right to  education would only enshrine or establish institutionalized theft wherein the government plays the role of an ever benevolent Robin Hood by robbing the wealth of the productive members of our society in order to serve the weak, the not-have, or less privileged in life.

Let me reiterate that the concept of rights does not include the right of compulsion and coercion, directly or indirectly. The worst form of coercion or extortion is the one being performed by the government in order to perform what is called the “greater good” or the “common good.” This is what is happening in most socialist slave pens on earth- in Cuba, in North Korea, in China, in Veneuzela and other dictatorships where the governments provide free health care, rationed or subsidized food, free education, etc.

The “right to education” or “free access to education” enshrined in our 1987 Constitution is an INVALID CONCEPT for it negates the Law of Identity and the Law of Causality. The framers of our Constitution dismissed the fact that the government is not supposed to be a “Robin Hood” agency, but an agency which has the sole duty to protect our individual rights and to safeguard this country against invasion or against internal threat. The framers of our Charter forgot the fact that before there can be something to “redistribute”, there has to be a definite source of wealth. They simply did not understand the relation between production and distribution. The constitutional right to”quality education at all levels” and “accessible education” is a puerile fantasy that is never grounded in reality. Such a right is an invalid concept and a floating abstraction.

Now, what is the proper function of the government and why is it very important to know this? Proper understanding of the nature and concept of government is the first step to establishing a free society. This is exactly what America’s founding fathers did, as they established a government whose powers are limited by law. This is why Thomas Jefferson said: “That government is best which governs least.” America started as a “limited government”, which is the political foundation of free-market capitalism.

What then is the proper function of government? Since the government holds a monopoly on the use of force, its only proper function is to protect individual rights. We need courts to protect our property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, and to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. We need the police to protect us from criminals and rights-violators. And we need the army to protect us against rebellion or foreign invaders. It’s not the role of government to provide the people with their basic needs. Proper understanding of economics tells us that the government is not a productive agency. It can only acquire wealth through taxation.

Further, as to the proper concept of rights, a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. That in order for man to act freely and independently, he must have freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men. However, our Constitution offers a distorted, perverted concept of rights as it warrants the people’s right to “something” that others produced or made possible through their personal, independent efforts. Does a right mean we are entitled to government welfare programs and services? If that’s the case, that means that we are entitled to the fruits of the productive labor of others through a state-imposed “redistribution of wealth.”

Puno’s statist rhetoric simply shows that he shares Justice Wendell Holmes’ “empty Constitution” and the so-called judicial activism. An empty Constitution is one which is empty of rational meaning, of moral content, and of objective purpose. It is empty of any logical principles delineating the symbiotic relationship between Man and the State.

There is a need to challenge these concepts of “empty Constitution” and “judicial activism” that have been profoundly entrenched in our political and constitutional system before it’s too late.

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