MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – From “crusading crook” and “attack dog,” it’s now the “corrupt” versus the “egotistic.”
Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago and former Sen Panfilo Lacson took their rivalry to another level, this time focusing on Lacson’s impending appointment as anti-corruption czar.
In a statement on Tuesday, July 16, Santiago called Lacson’s proposed position “unconstitutional, illegal, immoral and egotistic.” The constitutional law expert said Congress, not the President, can create a public office.
“His plan is laughable and ridiculous. [It] is unintelligent. It is a basic principle of the tripartite system of democracy that the creation of a public office is primarily a legislative function. He should go to Congress and lobby for this self-serving, self-aggrandizing personal pet project of his,” Santiago said.
Lacson fired back at Santiago’s criticism of the draft executive order he submitted to Malacañang that will create an anti-corruption agency he will head.
“Only the corrupt and the corruptible will resent the creation of an anti-corruption body,” Lacson said in a text message to reporters.
In a statement on Wednesday, July 17, Lacson addressed Santiago’s legal questions about the draft order.
He said the Supreme Court struck down the Truth Commission beecause it violated the equal protection clause as it was designed to go after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies only.
“In contrast, the proposed commission against corruption will run after all corrupt public officials and their cohorts. A reading of the decision would show that the creation of the Truth Commission was justified under the authority granted to the President under Article VII Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution which provides that “Sec 17 the President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus and offices. HE SHALL ENSURE THAT THE LAWS ARE FAITHFULLY EXECUTED.”
Lacson said this was the provision cited by the author of the decision, Justice Jose Mendoza and concurred by the majority.
“Easily, that makes the senator’s comments “ridiculous, unintelligent, laughable” and bereft of constitutional basis.”
Santiago has said she was scandalized that Lacson, a non-lawyer, drafted the proposed executive order. She said it did not just violate the Constitution but also the Administrative Code and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Act.
The senator also accused her former colleague of seeking to undermine other Cabinet officials.
“There is an existing Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. Lacson wants Ochoa bumped off. There is also an existing PNP under the control and supervision of the DILG secretary, who is Mar Roxas. Similarly, Lacson wants to bump off Roxas.”
‘SC rulings against Lacson’s grand plan’
Lacson has said he submitted a draft executive order to Malacañang to ensure that the new anti-corruption agency has operational capabilities and a law enforcement arm.
In past interviews, he said that while the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan investigated and tried graft cases, there is a need for a body with strong law enforcement powers, like entrapping officials.
Lacson said President Benigno Aquino III agreed “in principle” to his plan but the final design of the agency will be indicated in the signed order.
Yet Santiago said that, besides laws, several Supreme Court orders that had shot down other plans similar to Lacson’s “grand plan.”
The senator cited the 2010 case of Biraogo v Philippine Truth Commission, where the High Court said that the Administrative Code prohibits the President from creating an office under the guise of reorganization.
Santiago said the ruling affirmed that the power to create a public office rests with Congress, and not the President.
Another Supreme Court case Santiago pointed to was Buklod ng Kawaning EIIB v Hon Executive Secretary.
“In Buklod, the Supreme Court ruled that under the Administrative Code, the President is authorized to create a new office, but only as part of an executive reorganization,” she said.
Quoting from the ruling, Santiago said, “Reorganization takes place when there is an alteration of the existing structure of government offices or units therein, including the lines of control, authority and responsibility between them.”
‘Power of control vs power to create’
Santiago said that, in the Buklod case, the Supreme Court distinguished between the power of control and the power to create public offices.
“The former is inherent in the Executive, while the latter finds basis from either a valid delegation from Congress, or his inherent duty to faithfully execute the laws.”
Santiago also used the 2003 case of Bagaoisan v National Tobacco Administration and the 1998 case of Ople v Torres to question Lacson’s plan.
“In the Ople ruling, the Supreme Court cited the Administrative Code defining administrative orders as ‘acts of the President which relate to particular aspects of governmental operation in pursuance of his duties as administrative head.’”
Lacson and Santiago first clashed over the Senate fund controversy.
Santiago then accused Lacson of being the attack dog of her chief rival, resigned Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
The former senator shot back, calling her a “crusading crook” and “hypocrite par excellence.” Lacson accused Santiago of misusing Senate funds in renting her office, a charge Santiago denied.
Their rivalry has since evolved, with Santiago even questioning Lacson’s sexuality. – Rappler.com