POSTSCRIPT / February 25, 2010 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Elected execs have fixed term; Cabinet men don’t

BLACKOUTS: Commenting on our Feb. 21 Postscript on how the delivery of substandard fuel to a major power plant had contributed to a widespread blackout last month in the Meralco franchise area, engineer Honorio M. Tanquintic emailed us this comment:

“The winning bidder to buy coal and trade the electricity for Sual Power Plant is San Miguel Corp. Apparently San Miguel could not source out a coal supplier with good quality priced as that with previous buyer, that is National Power Corp. NPC could buy it at a lower cost since they have a long-term contract agreement with the coal supplier but San Miguel, a newcomer with caution, could not easily come into long-term agreement with the same coal supplier which resulted in a higher contract cost thereby delaying the procurement for the coal fuel for Sual Power Plant (same condition for goods contracted with large volume orders against small volume).

“There are enough power plants to generate the electricity requirement for Luzon for the whole of 2010 and up to next year. The problem is that the coal supplies for the major base load plants runs out.

“I do not know if it is wise that the fuel supplier and electricity trader also is now a major stockholder of Meralco, an electricity distributor. They could easily manipulate the electric prices, just wondering. I know cross-ownership is limited by law, but I do not know if this is the same with electricity trader.”

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RESIGN NA KAYO!: Postscript agrees with the Supreme Court ruling early this week that appointed officials, such as Cabinet members, running in the May elections should resign.

In that decision written by Chief Justice Reynato Puno, the tribunal reversed its ruling of last December declaring as unconstitutional certain provisions of the Omnibus Election Code and the Poll Automation Law that considered appointed officials seeking public office as resigned upon their filing of Certificates of Candidacy.

In a vote of 10-5, the court accepted the argument that appointed officials enjoy an unfair advantage over their rivals because they might use their office resources in the campaign. (There are better reasons than that.–fdp)

Because of the first SC decision, the Commission on Elections issued Resolution 8678 saying among other things that appointed officials shall be ipso facto (as a result) resigned upon their filing of CoC on or before Dec.1, 2009, for the May 2010 elections.

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DISCRIMINATORY?: Several Cabinet officials running for office said they intend to move for reconsideration. They argue that the new SC ruling is discriminatory, because it does not also compel elected officials to resign once they run for office.

For instance, President Gloria Arroyo is now running for the congressional seat in the second district of Pampanga, but is not deemed resigned.

The new ruling caught the President’s lawyer Romulo Macalintal in a contradiction. His view is that the SC decision must apply equally to both appointed and elected officials. But if that were the case, his client the President would also have to resign.

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HONORABLE EXIT: The only claim to office of Cabinet members is their appointment, which can be withdrawn anytime.

They should not think they are indispensable or that their departments will collapse once they go. In fact, service might even improve once the politician at the top leaves and the career executives take over.

An honorable way out for those hit by the SC ruling is to resign immediately, instead of prolonging the agony and wasting time and resources by moving for reconsideration and then losing the appeal anyway.

President Arroyo should nudge them, or accept their resignation while praising them for a job well done, blah blah.

Their clinging on only reinforces suspicion that they want to keep their unfair advantage, continue to flex their muscles, and maybe even scrape up more campaign funds.

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ELECTED VS APPOINTED: Some Cabinet officials have grumbled that the SC ruling is discriminatory in not applying the same resignation rule on elected officials.

Somebody should tell them that they are not on the same footing as elected officials who have a direct mandate from the people and enjoy a fixed term. Elected officials can be removed only for cause, and running for public office is not one of the valid causes for removal.

Imagine the resulting chaos if we required all elected officials – from the barangays to the towns, to the provinces — to resign once they run for another office. That would be like mass desertion or abandonment of office.

It would also be an insulting disregard of the voters who had elected them to office.

(By the way, under the new SC ruling are appointive officials automatically deemed resigned upon their fling of their CoC, or do they have to formally resign in writing? Can they just pack up and leave?)

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REPERCUSSIONS: Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez, who is running for Iloilo City mayor and is affected by the SC ruling, raised some interesting questions.

He asked: “Should one return the salary received from the date of CoC filing? What about the directives the Cabinet official has issued? Or am I considered a de facto Cabinet official?”

Another question of parties dealing with the Department of Justice: “Are resolutions and orders issued by the Justice Secretary at that time when, per SC ruling, she should be deemed resigned from office, binding or of no legal force and effect?”

Gonzales said he would not contest the SC decision and would resign if President Arroyo asked him to.

Sir, huwag na po kayong maghintay. Di magandang tingnan.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 25, 2010)

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