Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies. – Groucho Marx
The controversy over the suspension of Cebu governor Gwen Garcia for grave abuse of authority and her subsequent defiance of the suspension order because of legal technicalities was summed up in a question by a columnist from a major daily : “Is it the rule of law or the rule of politics?”
The rule of law as defined by my online dictionary is “the restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws.”
Ideally, the rule of law checks the capriciousness of politicians. In reality, politicians are good at disguising capriciousness as rule of law. And so, with as much legal piety as they can muster, both sides in the Garcia controversy cite the rule of law to back up their support for or opposition to the implementation of her suspension.
The administration points to substance–the evidence against Garcia–to back up its suspension order. Garcia, on the other hand, points to form–the suspension came too late, 474 days after the deadline mandated by the Local Government Code–to back her defiance of the suspension order.
Which side is with the rule of law? Both could be because politicians will never run out of arguments to support whatever side they are on.
From the Palace: “Our position is that this is a process that has to be followed and we are all obliged to follow the law. And you cannot choose which law you will follow and which you will not so let us all follow the law and let us not create a situation where people are encouraged to violate the law.”
From the UNA coalition: “So it only shows that there is really a process, okay? Governor Garcia opted to file in court also. Why then, can’t they halt the suspension in the meantime? After all, they’re saying it’s not a preventive suspension, it’s a penalty.” He added, “You know, that account about me and Senator Enrile and President Erap, that’s true. And we were there primarily para makipaggitgitan na manaig ang rule of law.”
From the Liberal PartY: “If they believe in legal processes, they should have advised Gwen to leave the Capitol and let the legal process take due course because she herself has sought refuge in the legal system in filing a motion for temporary restraining order.”
At any rate, the Court of Appeals (CA) will decide which side is more right. Will it uphold substance over form or form over substance?
Whichever way the CA decides, one party will feel aggrieved and will howl that the rule of law was sacrificed on the altar of politics. The baying will never end. The pressing question then is, can you do anything to end this endless barking back and forth?
Yes, you can do something about it. Gwen Garcia’s suspension is in the hands of the Court of Appeals but her political future, and her allies’ as well, is in your hands. You are the predicate, you decide their fate. You are the sovereign, they are your subjects. Rule wisely. You can vote against Garcia and her allies if you believe an abusado should not be in public office or you can take their side if you believe that an abusado can be abused through bad form.
As for me I’m tempted to follow the advice of Jobak, my spiritual adviser from the Cordilleras–“Just focus on Gwen Garci of Viva Hot Babes, she’s a far more interesting subject than Gwen Garcia of Cebu.” Om…
Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).