In an ideal set up, the government is structured so that there is checks and balances. All branches have equal powers and none above the other. This means that the people manning each branch or structure shall also function according to and within the limits of the branch or institution of government. Thus, an individual’s authority is only within his role in the general function of his institution.
This, even if at times, branches or structures of government may be in conflict with each other over some issues. And yet, this is resolved when the roles are respected and observed. However, this ideal set up is disturbed when one official – who may be in a very influential position – in a branch or structure over extends his authority, affect or alter other officials’ decision or stand on issues that their institution already threatens or imposes itself on another institution, beyond their function in the government.
Looking at our present government, it seems like the people in the structure has become more influential than the structure itself as there has been a number of times when the Constitution, the highest law of the land, the law that governs from the top to the bottom of the society, has been disregarded and the leaders went on to do their own things. Events like the Quo Warranto petition to oust the former Chief Justice Sereno, when CJs can only be ousted by impeachment, and the more recent revoking of amnesty given to Senator Trillanes. Present government leaders have gone beyond the limits set by the Constitution that regulates them on how they should do their work and serve the citizens.
Going back to the Marcos Regime, former President Ferdinand Marcos managed to declare Martial Law using the outrage of oppositions as his reason, and also to use it as his emergency plan to respond to the crises happening. With his proclamation and the switch to a new Constitution, Marcos composed his own government, appointed his close associates in the Supreme Court, and since the Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) are under the president, they brought to jail most of the opposition (Abinales & Amoroso, 2005).
In his book Origin of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama (2012) has emphasized that an ideal rule of law happens only when the leader is bound by the law and not the other way around. Also, when rules and laws are independent of the leaders’ own interests. Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law included a shift in the Constitution, as well as a change in the form of government. Through this, he also went on to plan about his “New Society” (Abinales & Amoroso, 2005).
Applying Fukuyama’s definition to Marcos’ Martial Law, it is seemingly evident that a person or the people behind the structure are more influential than the government structure itself. With the flexibility of the constitutions and law, no matter how well-made or potent they are, if the ruling power is to change the way things are, the laws won’t be able to hold their power well.
Back to the present time, the current administrations big scandals like the Quo Warranto and revocation of amnesties are present-day alteration of the Constitutions according to the ruling power. The names involved in the two issues are both vocal members of the opposition and the things done to them are both remarkably unconstitutional.
According to Article XI, Section 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the current constitution of the land, “… the Members of the Supreme Court… removed from office, on impeachment…” and the only the other government or public officers are to be ousted by other laws (De Leon, 2014). With former CJ Sereno’s case, she was ousted using the Quo Warranto petition. Aside from not abiding by the constitution, the other fault with this case is that the said petition can only be filed within the year of the said reason of ousting (Inquirer Research, 2018).
With Senator Trillanes’ case, an amnesty is given by the president with the agreement of the Congress. Therefore, to revoke it, is to undergo the same process (De Leon, 2014). However, with this case, the amnesty was revoked through a proclamation on the grounds that the senator lacked the credentials needed to be given one.
While it wasn’t stated in the constitution whether an amnesty can be revoked or not, the lack of the process is the fault in this case. Since it takes a recommendation from the commissioner or an agreement with majority of the congress to give an amnesty, it should be pointed out that to revoke one is to do the same things again.