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Forum flags democracy and governance under test on several fronts

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PHILSTAR/EFIGENIO TOLEDO IV

By Charmaine A. Tadalan

FROM the drug war to the economy, “Democracy and Governance” has been challenged today to the point that now warrants upholding the truth, resource speakers said in a forum on Thursday with that theme.

Lawyer Jose Manuel I. Diokno said the people must continue to “live in truth.”

“When we live within the truth, we break through the facade of the system and unmask the real nature of its power,” Mr. Diokno said in the forum organized in part by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Mr. Diokno, who is also dean of the College of Law at the De La Salle University, noted that “I don’t have to tell you the state of civil and political rights and the rule of law under the present dispensation because it is obvious.”

“I submit that the reason why this administration is condoning if not encouraging the use of guns to dispense justice is because a government based on the rule of power thrives on fear and violence, seeks ‘to eliminate all expressions of non-conformity’ and wants to consign our reason and conscience ‘to a higher authority,’” he said.

“When we live within the truth, we reclaim our inherent human dignity and self-worth,” Mr. Diokno also said, as he cited the examples of fishermen in the West Philippine Sea, journalists critical of the administration, human rights defenders against the drug war.

For his part, Professor Emmanuel S. de Dios of the University of the Philippines School of Economics said the government’s economic reforms are “self-defeating,” referring to the administration’s infrastructure program and the new tax reform law.

The government, according to Mr. de Dios, has not been fully efficient in implementing the “Build, Build, Build” program. “The problem with that situation is that it undermines the case for new taxes. You’re not even hitting your infrastructure spending budget… and then you’re demanding new taxes,” he said.

He added the recorded growth rate of 6.7% is “below (the) government’s own targets of 7 to 8 percent.”

“Hindi dapat tayo masiyahan nang madali (We shouldn’t be easily satisfied). (According to the) long term trend, you should be growing at 7%. Why is that not happening?” he said.

For his part, lawyer Christian S. Monsod tackled the government’s efforts to overhaul the 1987 Constitution that he helped draft in 1986, and the shift to a federal system, which he opposes.

Citing UP Political Science Professor Gene Lacza Pilapil, Mr. Monsod said there is no consensus on the superiority of a federal to a unitary system of government.

“If there is no superiority of either one, why the need to overhaul?” he added.

For her part, retiring Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said her agency “has prioritized resolving grand corruption cases,” citing for example the controversial Priority Disbursement Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

“Where does this claim of selective justice coming from?” she said.

During her term, Ms. Morales was able to increase the conviction rate to 77% in 2016 from 41% in 2011.

Among her accomplishments was handling over 19,000 cases she inherited in 2011, which her Office had to work on in addition to the annual intake of 5,000 cases.

“The collective efficiency of the workforce brought the number to a steady decline over the years, to a manageable number of around 6,000 by the end of 2017,” she said of the Ombudsman’s reduction of case load.

“If the next leadership would not turn a cold shoulder on the existing initiatives, wheels need not be reinvented, only improved,” Ms. Morales said.