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Population, Poverty, Politics and the Reproductive Health Bill

There are a few aspects of the bill to which some groups have expressed strong objections, which we can understand. Among these are whether the State should subsidize family planning by the unmarried; whether reproductive health and sex education in public schools should be compulsory, and at what grade-level it should start. Moreover, the notion of two children being the “ideal family size” (Section 13 of the RH Bill) may be difficult to defend.

But the main thrust of the bill – “enabl(ing) couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to carry out their decisions” – is something we strongly and unequivocally support.

An Absolute Privilege

THREE QUESTIONS would be left unanswered should the Supreme Court refuse to budge on its March 25, 2008 ruling in the Neri v. Senate Committee case. Equally — if not more — important, however, is the final decision’s bearing on how the executive and the court would hence be dealing with questions involving presidential communications in Congressional inquiries. This is why transparency and accountability advocates are hoping that the Supreme Court will reconsider and allow the Senate to compel disclosure over the claim of executive privilege.

The Constitutional Comfort for Impunity

A constitution is nothing if not a bulwark against abuse of power by the duly constituted authority. The grandmother of all written constitutions, the Magna Charta, was a list of 63 proscriptions on the previously absolute powers of the monarchy. King John was forced by a concert of English barons armed to the teeth to sign and issue the proclamation at Runnymede in 1215 in return for their cessation of belligerence. Among the provisions imposed upon the king were the right of freemen to be judged by their own peers, the power to tax being vested on the council of the kingdom and the council of the kingdom to include barons, clergymen and burghers. Accountability was ensured by the willingness of the barons to bear arms in its defense. This made England less a regal than a legal state, one where the power of the purse and the power of adjudication are alienated from executive power. John Locke and Baron de Montesquieu were anticipated by centuries.

Executive Privilege in the ZTE-NBN Controversy

The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of their respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation. They may also request the heads of departments to appear before them and be heard on any matter pertaining to their departments. The prerogative to request the heads of departments to appear in order to elicit information, sometimes referred to as the “question hour”, constitutes the oversight function of Congress in respect to the executive. In keeping with the system of separation of powers, Congress may only “request” and appearance is discretionary on the part of department heads. In contrast, when the inquiry is “in aid of legislation”, appearance is compulsory, with an attendant power to punish for contempt. To be “in aid of legislation”, the inquiry must be material or necessary to the exercise of a power vested by the Constitution in Congress, such as to legislate, or to expel a member. To compel an answer, the question need not of itself be material to a proposed legislation, but only that it be material or pertinent to the subject of the inquiry.

New Sources of Development Financing: The Case for a Green Tax

Financing for development is evidently a key issue in the global response to the challenge of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is a tough challenge to raise additional revenues to fight global poverty and foster all-sided development. Notwithstanding recent initiatives for significant debt relief for the poorest heavily indebted countries and some trade concessions to developing countries, much still has to be done to generate enough resources for development and anti-poverty spending.

Maynilad Rehab Plan: Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang

The highly controversial case regarding the Maynilad rehabilitation plan is nearing its resolution. From the public interest perspective, the plan fails to address the concerns of consumers and taxpayers.

On 20 December 2004, the Rehabilitation Receiver submitted her Rehabilitation Receiver’s Report recommending the court approval of Maynilad’s September 2004 Revised Rehabilitation Plan. On 28 January 2005, Action for Economic Reforms and its co-parties filed a comment/opposition to the receivers report.