Looking like a whorehouse
It is often said, quite unctuously, that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Vox populi, vox Dei. This has been expanded to also mean the voice of Congress is the voice of the people—and microcosmically, every congressman or senator speaks for all his nameless, faceless constituents.
Some of us believe, though, that all that is unadulterated hogwash! Indeed, if the voice of the people were really the voice of God, somebody please explain Sen. Lito Lapid and the quality of congressmen and senators we have. But if everyone else is totally sold on that illusion and legal fiction, so be it. So then, if Congress acts on a proposed legislation, it can only mean the people want it to be made a law. Conversely, if Congress fails to act on it, it can only mean the people are against it.
Now to the point of this academic exercise: Congress determines by law the salaries/compensation to be paid to government. Congress has upgraded the emoluments for judges and justices. The trouble is the magistrates are not satisfied with their legislated benefits and Congress has not seen fit to jack up their salaries some more. Thus, by the sheer logic of legal fiction, it should necessarily follow that the people, not merely Congress, think the magistrates have been given enough for now. Hence, the magistrates’ choice is obvious: be martyrs for love of country, or leave and let others make the sacrifice. Indeed, as many people in the country continue to suffer penury, so should their “servants”!
When the Supreme Court increased the judicial fees to shore up funds needed to augment the magistrates’ salaries, it sure looked like it had arrogated unto itself the “power of the purse” vested only in Congress. And if that were to go unchallenged, what would stop the executive branch from charging exorbitant administrative fees for the purpose of increasing the salaries of its own officers and employees, too?
In fact, the Department of Justice has already been doing precisely that: charging fees for the filing of criminal cases (also meant to increase the take-home pay of public prosecutors which they could not otherwise get from Congress). Yes, there are also docket fees to be paid by the complainant for filing a criminal case! As perverse as that may sound, that is a reality victims of crimes must deal with if they want to have their day in court! Not content, the DOJ also exacts a price for the “privilege” of hiring private prosecutors to take over the jobs of the public or state prosecutors who may now just sit it out during trial and do nothing much else.
The original concept of administrative fees being meant merely to cover “reasonable cost of public service” (by itself already an oxymoron, for are not the people supposed to get public service for free in return for being “taxed from womb to tomb”?) has now been so twisted and bastardized the entire Philippine public service network is beginning to look more like a whorehouse where every conceivable “service” comes with a price!
—STEVE Y. VESPERA, ESQ, [email protected]
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