By Atty. Anfred P. Panes
The term of the present administration is about to end in a few months. However, issues on audit, albeit its questionable propriety under the law, resound in the political arena. In the same wise, the campaign against corruption until the closing chapters seems to be rhetorical, often in dissonance with the real actuations.
Is the Vice President constitutionally endowed with the power to audit government offices? No. Assuming arguendo that one is elected as Vice President, nowhere is it found under Article 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the Administrative Code, or other pertinent laws that the National seat affords the holder the right to audit. Come June 2022, the President will resume his life as a lawyer – someone who is expected to know the powers of a Vice President or where the power to audit is actually lodged.
Can the Chief Executive order the Legislature to stop its power of legislative inquiry over the functions of the government? No. You can neither order nor plea in argumentum ad misericordiam that the Senate should stop the investigation in the ongoing programs of the government. A person who is a lawyer by profession is at the very least expected to know the broad powers of the legislature in investigation in aid of legislation enshrined under Section 21, Article 6 of the Constitution. To halt the Senate’s investigation when warranted in the guise of “respect” is legally infirm. It just cannot prosper without defying the principle of checks and balances. There is no need to cower when there is no culpability to hide.
The closing curtain of the political performance is now in view, yet the foothold thereon is seemingly stricturized by the standard bearers. We might as well remind you that such realpolitik is not the priority at this time because we are still grappling with efficient and effective solutions to this pandemic. The plan to run for yet another national executive position due to unfinished business is a concomitant admission of inefficiency during the incumbency. I think the people had enough of the systematic hardship by unresponsive policies. No need to perpetuate such power.
The timeless issue of corruption and the defenestration of principle of transparency and accountability are always held in rhetorics; not being responded to; left to oblivion by using diversionary tactics; logical fallacies when confronted with such; or defense mechanism no matter how legally unsound. I think a bold move if one is genuine for the anti-corruption campaign is to at least show their SALN – a very basic requirement of transparency and guard against corruption, yet it seems that the People always get, for some unfathomable reason, their stubborn refusal. Be that as it may, how will you embody to “fight corruption…to serve the public with utmost excellence and integrity as well as regain the trust and faith of our people in our institution”?
I hope the answer is not blowing in the wind. Or even it still does, I hope the people already learned.
The author is the founding partner of A.Panes Law and Professorial Lecturer of the USA College of Law