POSTSCRIPT / August 14, 2018 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Just let Customs go to the dogs!

AFTER the smuggling Friday of P6.8-billion worth of narcotics, which was just one of big illegal drug shipments periodically allowed to slip in, we say in exasperation: Let Customs go to the dogs!

Explaining that blast on Twitter yesterday, we asked: “Would it not be cheaper, faster and more reliable if Customs used drug-sniffing dogs instead of humans to check cargo for narcotics?”

A host of tweeters chorused in agreement. Canine drug-sniffers are cheaper to train and maintain, are incorruptible, and work quickly without needing instruments. Their budget will be only a fraction of what would be spent on equivalent human personnel.

But the doggone idea will not pass. The no-nonsense dogs would cripple the multibillion-peso racket of the drug lords and their associates at customs, in law enforcement agencies and their high and mighty protectors in government.

Another reason why it might not work was given by Kasmot @Kasmot15, who tweeted that while dogs cannot be bribed: “D problem there is d k9 dog handler being bribed, so wala din…” — a restatement of the classic question of who will police the police?

Imagine if somebody has to be hired to watch the dog-handler, and another person to watch the first watcher, and then another one to watch the second watcher. We’re talking here only of the dog handler. There are other human links in the chain.

But, seriously, why not try using more canine drug-sniffers? The idea could be modified here and there so as not to totally displace humans.

Aside from the customs bureau, meanwhile, other groups have joined the investigation frenzy: the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency, the presidential anti-crime something and others wanting to poke their finger into the juicy pie.

The PDEA found last Friday magnetic lifters in Cavite similar to those intercepted Tuesday at the Manila International Container Port in Manila. The lifters in Cavite were already emptied of their estimated load of 500 kilos of drugs valued at P6.8 billion.

The case recalled an incident last year where shabu worth P6.4 billion was spirited out of customs. Only the warehouseman at the bodega where the drugs were traced was charged. Then Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon was fired but later appointed elsewhere.

Critics note that the anti-illegal drug campaign of the administration focuses on the rounding up, and sometimes the gunslaying, of mostly suspected users and small-time pushers, with the drug suppliers left to operate with impunity.

 Home on rainy day, try political math

STORMY weather keeping you home with damp spirits? Try doing some political arithmetic to jog your brain a bit. Try this.

The test: Compute for the latest date when the Congress should approve the draft Federal Constitution so it could be submitted to a plebiscite piggybacking on the midterm election on May 13, 2019.

Assumptions: (1) President Duterte wants the Federal Constitution passed early enough for a May 13 plebiscite next year. (2) The draft charter will be approved by three-fourths vote of the Congress, and submitted for ratification in a plebiscite on May 13, 2019.

Conditions: Section 4 of Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution provides: “Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution under Section 1 hereof shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after the approval of such amendment or revision.”

Reiterating the question: What is the deadline for the Congress to approve the Federal Constitution so it can be submitted for ratification in the plebiscite coinciding with the election of May 13, 2019?

If you’re neither lawyer nor mathematician, you have 30 minutes to answer; if a lawyer but not a mathematician, 45 minutes; if a mathematician but not a lawyer, 10 minutes; if both a lawyer and mathematician, you’re disqualified; if a bible-toting sinator, train for five days muna.

We submit that the highlighted part of Section 4 is confusing, we hope not deliberately made so by the framers of the Constitution so we laymen would have to consult lawyers (and ultimately the courts) just to interpret or understand it.

That proviso is so tricky it should be included as a question in the bar exams.

 A lawyer’s answer to the question

WE ASKED two brilliant lawyers to answer the question. One failed to receive my email early enough. The other one “respectfully submitted” (complete with a tabulation) his answer hereinunder quoted verbatim:

“The constitutional provision that the plebiscite ‘shall be held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after the approval of the amendment or revision’ means that the plebiscite must be held between the 61st day to 90th day from approval of the said amendment or revision. This is to give time to for plebiscite campaign period.

“Thus, for the plebiscite to be held simultaneous with the May 13, 2019, election, the amendments or revision must be approved on March 13, 2019, which is within the 60 day period allowed by the Constitution to conduct the plebiscite because if the amendment or revision is approved say, April 1, 2019, it is 42 days too early (April 1-30 is 30 days; May 1-12 is 12 days, or a total of 42 days) to hold the plebiscite on May 13, 2019.

“‘Not later than 90 days after the approval of the amendment or revision’ means that the amendment or revision must approved on February 11, 2019, so the plebiscite could be held simultaneous with the May 13, 2019 elections. For if the amendment or revision is approved say, on February 1, 2019, the plebiscite cannot be held on May 13, 2019, because there are 100 days from February 1 to May 13, 2019, hence, 10 days too late to comply with the 90-day period provided for by the Constitution.”

If after that lawyerly reply, the reader still did not understand the answer, we’re stuck!

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 14, 2018)

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