Judge Soriano and the old normal
The week in passing brings us four domestic issues which must be commented on, in chronological order:
The first is that Regional Trial Court Branch 148 Judge Andres Bartolome Soriano is getting praise from almost all quarters for his ruling, based on what I consider incontrovertible evidence that Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV did file his application for amnesty, which form included a pro forma statement admitting his guilt.
And rightly so. Given the same evidence, his colleague, RTC Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda, had ruled that there was no proof Trillanes had filed his application for amnesty, etc., etc.
How can two judges, looking at basically the same evidence, come to such opposite conclusions? Well, Reader, here’s my read on it. Judge Alameda represents the new normal in the judiciary, which essentially means to do the expedient thing, or the thing that earns money or the gratitude of the powers-that-be.
Judge Soriano, on the other hand, represents the old (quite old, one must add) normal. He called it like he saw it, and damn the torpedoes.
Well, not quite. He did throw the government a bone, by saying that Proclamation No. 572 was legal. Why do I say it is a bone? Because, of course, the President can issue any proclamation he likes. This bone is what Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra grabbed in order to claim that both sides won (well, if you won, Secretary Guevarra, why are you moving for reconsideration, and continuing to waste the people’s money?).
And has anybody wondered why somebody who merely did his job (e.g., Judge Soriano) is getting such praise? Is it because we are getting used to “servants of the people” not doing their job?
Second is the news I read in this paper that the revenues the government targeted to collect from TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) were 74.1 percent short of target. In other words, for every P100 we expected to collect, only P25.90 was actually raised. Apparently, none of the revenue measures (oil excises, sugar taxes, value-added taxes, automobile taxes, name it) performed as expected.
However, the revenue-lowering measures (income tax reductions, donor’s taxes, etc.) kicked in as scheduled. The top 50 percent of the population got their bonanza.
What a debacle. This means that the government’s deficit is going to balloon (if they spend as planned), or we cut down on our planned expenditures on education, infrastructure, etc. Which therefore means that what we need to grow stronger and faster will not occur.
Then there is President Duterte signing into law the franchise granted to the Villar family to operate a telecommunications company (telco), on Oct. 18, but only publicized on Oct. 23. And—surprise, surprise—this telco is interested in securing the third telco slot (after Globe and Smart), which is to be chosen by Nov. 7.
What smooth timing. The franchise is given just in time for the Villar company to bid for that third slot. There are now nine interested bidders for that slot. But with Villar mère in the Senate, Villar fils the head of the Department of Public Works and Highways and his wife a congresswoman (party list) until August this year when she was sworn in as justice undersecretary, how do you think the other bidders will feel, with that kind of influence backing up this new bidder, which will be headed by another Villar fils? Lutong Macao.
But let me say at this point that I still have faith in Eliseo Rio Jr. of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. Rio is one of the few officials in the Duterte Cabinet who seems to know what he is doing.
The fourth issue is with regard to Bureau of Customs head Isidro Lapeña. After a long controversy, with Lapeña changing his stance (reminded me of the Saudi Arabian government) several times, and President Duterte weighing in, at last the situation is resolved: The entire officialdom of the BOC will be placed on “frozen” or “floating” status to give way to a clean sweep. Except for Lapeña, who is promoted to Cabinet status as head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Does this mean that everybody under him in the BOC was guilty, but he did not know about it? Excuse me. If he was so incompetent, why promote him? It doesn’t compute.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.