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Flawed check-and-balance system of the Senate Commentary


An indispensable element in the making of an ideal government is the framework by which there exists a check-and-balance system—a long tested mechanism in history by which each of the three branches of the government performs watchdog duties upon each other to facilitate incorruptible transactions and to prevent lapses and abuses of authority by those who govern. In same breathe, it provides that climate of a just and secured society for those who are governed. I trace the nobility of this system to the ancient glory days of the Roman Empire, when the mighty Caesar was checked by honorable Senators in the interest of all citizens.

During moments of reflections, I play and replay memoirs I wish to remember; and here I don’t struggle to find logic why the Philippine justice system is the way it is—inefficient and unreliant…or accepting and trusting, depending on one’s viewpoints For the first adjectives, without hesitancy, I recognize the check- and-balance system turned into an ineffective, inefficient system—serious lapses in investigations, recommendations and actions diluted and laced with personal interest and political motives—as significantly contributory to dishonest performances of the wheels of government, and to the tarnished justice system.

I understand that for all its good intentions, the check-and-balance doctrine, just like any man-made dogma, can have critics and shortcomings. But here I can argue that the system is good, but the people responsible for it could be flawed and could not be that good.

Given the opportunity to live in the United States—considered the world’s most powerful democracy—-I am blessed I can afford to compare two countries in the context of their prevailing justice systems, considering both have duplicative frameworks in governing, in legislating, and in impeachment proceedings of supposed to be role model pillars of society.

Congress’ pathetic efforts and often excessive roles in checking the behavior and functioning of the government brought about building blocks to abuse of power and encouragement to delay and paralysis in the movement of justice. Its failure to employ well the check-and-balance system has encouraged negating conditions for economic investments to spur good, honorable jobs, and has created social conditions that became basis for modern era exodus of Filipinos in all parts of the globe.

As of today, I view the Senate as performing investigative efforts I construe as serious encroachment to the power and mandate of the Executive and of the Judiciary. It is conducting police functions to detain and to restrict liberties of suspects—duties assigned to the police arm of the State; it is making prolonged, unproductive cross-examinations of suspects— legal exercises normally handled by competent lawyers and prosecutors of the Court. Its overreaching mandate of always engaging in criminal matters results to flawed, sluggish and unreliant justice methodology…but ,worse, to futile exercises of showmanship. A case in point, let us remember the wasteful, unproductive showmanship by Senate hearings in the Katrina Halili/Hayden Kho case; let us not forget the still many others that are testimonials and marred legacies to unproductive investigative exercises by the Philippine Senate.

The Senate must chart a course to modify encroaching, duplicative police and court actions; it must confine itself within its model constitutional mandate; that is to investigate and to advise. To engage in wastefully continuous investigations without ends—due to host of reasons of personal, political, humanitarian, self-interest, and legal maneuvering considerations—are becoming scandals themselves.

In line with its constitutional mandate to investigate and to advise, Congress must attempt speedy resolutions of cases. Gathered preponderance of evidence, along with corroborating testimonies and documentations must suffice to transfer cases, and all their findings, to the competent Police to facilitate arrest and detention, and subsequent turnover (of the thieves, criminals, and plunderers) to the Courts for prosecution and speedy punishment.

Prolonged investigations are self-serving, delaying, and contravening justice. Evident wisdom is that justice delayed is justice denied. Hastened trials and punishments can only serve as a deterrence to crimes, can only show joy and inspiration to people long infected and became victims by many ills of society, and can display wisdom and triumph at last of true, honest human endeavors.

To name some glaring failures of the system: the impeachment hearings on the current Ombudsman should have been encouraged and done years ago. Her refusal to acknowledge guilt and blame, and her persistence to justify her actions albeit the preponderance of evidence to her case of betrayal of public trust are so much negating tributes to her as Ombudsman—the so-called Protector and Guardian of the people.

The AFP corruption scandals are cases analogous to “a bridge to nowhere.” Despite corroborating statements and alleged incriminating documentations of George Rabusa and Heidi Mendoza, none has yet to be put in jail.

Personal emotions contravene the spirit of law when involved Senators invoke empathizing words to exclude the wife and families of the deceased, plunder-implicated General Reyes. In this AFP corruption scandal, never have I observed the civilian head of the AFP—the honorable Secretary of Defense—questioned for dereliction of duties. Never was blame rendered to the Secretary of Agriculture for the “Fertilizer scandal”; never was blame and punishment rendered to Gloria Arroyo for “Hello Garci” massive election fraud, which gave rise to more years of blemished Arroyo government and bruised image of the Philippines abroad.

And never have I observed how the check-and-balance system mechanism of a government has been so seriously flawed and made ineffective by those who own it and exult it.

(Pacifico M. Talens—is a retired US Navy Senior Chief who served as Personnel Officer and Admin Officer on board US Navy combatant ships and on shore installations.)

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