With Homobono A. Adaza
“It is not titles that honor men, it is men
who honor titles.”- Niccolo Machiavelli
The current problem confronting the House of Representatives has nothing to do with the interests of the Filipino people. It has nothing to do with honor. For the parties – President Duterte, Speaker Cayetano, Congressman Velasco and the rest of the membership of the House of Representatives – it has something to do with money, power and influence.
Palabra de honor or sin honor: Everyone is talking about palabra de honor, in English, word of honor. Even members of the political opposition in the House who are aligned with Velasco are invoking word of honor as a solution to the problem of who should be Speaker of the current House after October 14, 2020.
Why are the Velasco forces invoking word of honor? This is the only clear and easy way for Velasco to be Speaker. The four persons who participated in the forging of the term-agreement are – President Duterte, Spealer Cayetano, Congressman Velasco and Congressman Martin Romualdez. The three congressmen signed the agreement as reported in tri-media. Why? They were all gunning to be speaker at the opening of the 2016 Congress and in their collective opinion this was the way to solve their party problem.
The initial question should be – is the agreement constitutional, legal and moral? It is only after this question is correctly answered that the issue of word of honor comes into play.
Constitutional:Is it constitutional? It is not. Why? Public officers are bound by Section 1, Article XI of the Constitution which states –
“Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”
Public office cannot be subject to agreements by public officials under our constitutional system There are rules to be observed on official behavior. A term-agreement is irresponsible, lack of integrity, disloyal to public interests, unpatriotic and unjust not only to the Filipino people but the whole House membership.
President Duterte who brokered the agreement has more constitutional responsibility to observe and defend the Constitution under section 5, Article VII of our Constitution. But he did not.
What is the significance of the term-agreement? It means that the participants to the agreement are unfamiliar with these basic provisions of the Constitution or they are aware of it but they don’t give a heck to the Constitution. This is not unusual under the Duterte administration. What is usual is the dishonoring of the Constitution instead of its observance.
Illegal: It is illegal under the provisions of our existing criminal laws? Yes, it is. Section 1, Article XI of the Constitution has been sanctified under Section 4 in relation to Section 11 of Republic Act 6713, known as Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Employees. All public officials and employees are covered by this law – from President to the lowest employee in government. By entering into this term agreement, the three congressmen who participated in this agreement have not only violated the Constitution, they have committed a criminal act under RA 6713. The President is equally culpable for brokering the term agreement.
What does section 4 of RA 6713 requires of our public officials. The provisions define the conduct and commitment of public officials to public interest over personal interest, professionalism, nationalism and patriotism, justness and sincerity as well as commitment to democracy. This term agreement violates this kind of required conduct of public officials. This is punishable under section 11 of the same Act.
This term agreement also violates section 3(e) of RA 3019 known as Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act as it causes serious injury to the people as well as the Government.
Immoral: The cited provisions of the Constitution and the cited laws define the moral conduct of public officials. These legal provisions are consistent with the moral code of civilized societies. You don’t enter into an agreement on how an office is to be partitioned like a term agreement. It is unconstitutional, it is illegal and immoral.
But this is not surprising because many of our public officials are immoral – having many wives or husbands or girl and boy friends. Graft and corruption is not only illegal, it is immoral, Influence peddling is not only illegal, it is also immoral. Selective justice is not only illegal, it is likewise immoral.
Irrespective of the regime from President Quirino to President Duterte, immorality in government rides the crest of the wave. It is, therefore, not surprising why top leaders shamelessly enter into such unconstitutional, illegal and immoral agreements as term sharing with the effrontery of invoking palabra de honor – word of honor. In this case, it is palabra sin honor – word without honor.
Honor: When an agreement, such as a term agreement, is unconstitutional, illegal and immoral, the agreement is null and void from the very beginning. In law, it means it is nothing as if no agreement has been entered into. Simply, the agreement is a mere scrap of paper with no legal and moral effect. If such is the case, and it is the case, why should anyone invoke word of honor? There is no honor involved. They are participants in a criminal agreement which has no binding effect. So where is the palabra de honor? It is nowhere. There is only palabra sin honor – word without honor. And it is the prevailing behavioral pattern of most public officials in this country – dishonorable.
Liable and culpable: The public officials involved in this agreement are liable and culpable. The question comes to mind – can they be prosecuted? Of course! But who will prosecute them when the prosecutors are under their thumb. All we can do is to document this event of our time – for purposes of history, informing the people to make them learn and as guiding light for those who would like to change things in their communities and in the country.