Monday, July 23, 2007

State of the Nation

Today as required by the Constitution, the President of the Philippines will address the Congress and outline her plans and what detail she has achieved since the last session of Congress. This tradition of the Head of State appearing before the legislature is from the days when the Monarch summons Parliament so that he can have tax money. Only the Parliament can levy taxes. To this day, Her Majesty the Queen appears before the Parliament in Westminster and reads the throne speech. The speech outlines the legislative program of the government of the day.

The Queen today is barred by convention to express her political opinions even before Parliament (she can only do so in the confidence of the Prime Minister in Buckingham Palace). The President however is not accountable to the legislature and can express her opinion. In this way the President is more like an absolute ruler than the Queen. While it is the unwritten constitutional convention that prevents the Queen from exercising her absolute powers (which she legally has even to this day) Only the written Constitution reins the President in. And now we see how besieged this constitution is.

The real state of the nation really focuses on how Mrs Arroyo has eroded our institutions of constitutional government (which we really inherited from England through the USA). More than a year ago she tested the limits of her rule by using emergency powers which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional. She has tried to rewrite the constitution by people's initiative which the Court struck down since the constitution can only be amended not rewritten using this route (besides the lack of an enabling law)

And lately the spate of assassinations of members of the Left has hounded her presidency that the Court had to call a summit and plan a course of strategy.

Mrs Arroyo has the penchant for appointing people to her cabinet whose qualification for the portfolio are questionable. This also erodes public trust on the Executive.

Of course the macroeconomic indices suggests that we are in the rebound but poverty remains widespread and likely growing and the traditional social safety nets are strained.

We can understand the Left's concern over the Human Security Act (HSA). While the law has many checks on potential abuse, the Left fears this law would be a Nacht und Nebel decree under Mrs Arroyo's direction.

The electorate has signified its resistance by electing Antonio Trillanes as Senator. Looks like Mr Trillanes won't be able to attend Congress' opening today.

The nation is more polarized today. We know why.

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