Missing Congress: The Philippines as an Administrative State
Section 12 of RA 11525 (“COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021”) makes it very clear that vaccine cards are not required for government or business transactions and declares that vaccinated persons will not be considered “immune from COVID-19.” So why do government agencies need vaccine cards to enter hotels, restaurants and businesses, including the Higher Education Commission (CHED) for students and teachers to go to school? More specifically: Why are unelected government bureaucrats able to go directly against laws made by elected legislators?
Because this is what happens when a country becomes an “administrative state”.
An administrative state is one in which the executive bodies of the executive branch exercise their “power to make, judge and enforce their own rules” (see Ballotpedia). There are two features that, while constitutional, undue extra employment unfortunately weakens our democratic system of government.
The first is the continuous transfer of power to the executive branch, which has traditionally given power to the government agencies under the control and supervision of the President in the hands of the Congress. Until the conditions of the two laws are met (i.e., completeness and adequate quality testing), Congress may very well leave its responsibilities to the executive branch.
Another feature is judicial respect, a principle of judicial review where the court delays the interpretation of the agency or the application of the law. Thus, in Remolona v. Civil Service Commission (GR No. 137473), the Supreme Court has said that courts generally do not interfere in the entire administrative matters addressed to government agencies with proper prudence unless there is arbitrary, humorous or explicit display. Serious abuse of prudence Lack of jurisdiction. And in Nuessa v. Court of Appeals (GR No. 132048), the search for administrative officers and agencies who have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction was limited to specific matters is not only generally respected, but often even finalized if such results are supported by sufficient evidence. (See Antonio Nachura’s “Outline Reviewer of Political Law”).
The problem with having a civil service with enhanced power is that it supports a deliberately planned tripartite form of equal and separate power. Effectively, significant powers are concentrated under one person-led executive branch: the president.
Thus, this pertinent point: “Power and authority vested in a body is the definition of oppression. The US Constitution provides for separate powers. [from which we derive our own constitutional system] It protects individual liberty by dividing law-making, executive and judicial authority into three equal branches, ensuring that no single branch can exercise absolute rule. Federalist paper writers, such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, used the flaws of human nature to support the government’s necessary limitations. ” , October 2020).
The so-called “progressives” believe their cause justifies a work around the legislative process, calling for a faster way to impose increasing government restrictions. But it only set aside “elected officials” elected officials in determining a wide range of regulations, free from democratic oversight or political interference. Over time, the complete lack of accountability from the courts and the increased capacity of Congress have allowed federal agencies, including ‘semi-legislative’ and ‘semi-judicial’ powers, to overturn constitutional principles and exert maximum influence on the lives of citizens with minimal asylum. “
A profound example of this change can be seen in our budget system. Congress has always been called the “power of the purse” and this is because, since tax funds are taken from the citizens, the expenditure or allocation of tax money is decided by their duly elected representatives but is fair. – Therefore, Congress.
In 2014, the then university professor, now education secretary, Leonor Magtolis Bryones noted that Congress had control of “about 23% of the budget”. Instead, power is “now owned by the president.” The reason is that “a penny indicates an inherent weakness in the budget due to limited transparency and accountability in the management of these funds.” Thus, “once the budget is passed, the executive can completely ignore even the budget approved by Congress.” (“The president, not Congress, has the power of the purse.” Philippine star, August 2014; See also “Who actually holds the ‘power of the purse?’,” PIDS, December 2009).
This transition to an administrative state, where unelected bureaucrats rule the lives of the people without accountability, is not only inherently undemocratic but also completely authoritarian. It also encourages incompetence, as we have seen in COVID-19 systems in recent years.
Fixing the budget system firmly to keep Congress in power is a step in the right direction. The imposition of oversight by the general public and regular Congress on these administrative bodies is another. Ultimately, it would be better to drastically reduce the number of national government agencies and instead transfer many of their functions to local government units, whose administrators have greater responsibility for their components.
Jamie Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and Lecturer in Constitutional Philosophy and Jurisprudence at the Philippine Judicial Academy.
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