Delay becomes our culture. Time, we have plenty of it. Our perception of time is a concept, not an exact measurement of an otherwise ephemeral given. Time for us is, right, ephemeral: something ghostlike, passing, and ethereal. We fix our mornings from sunrise to noon; and the afternoon from noon to sundown. A stick of cigarette from points A to B. Youth as fiesta time, adulthood as a chapter for status, marriage, possession; and old age is the time for sitting pretty. Or a lifetime.
But Austin Dobson was right and we are wrong when he said, “Time goes you say? No, time stays. We go.”
We have dwindling forests, and soon our remaining natural resources are fair game, cut and fed to the insatiable global abdomen. What remains is the equivalent of the idle time of 85 million zombies. At least a tenth of them are out of here, and a fifth in outsourcing.
While we remain inside the belly of stagnation, we turn among ourselves, practically cannibalizing, maiming and killing each other.
What does one expect from thirty million able bodied populace playing the game of survival cramped in an arena of limited wherewithal except time? Unlike basketball, there is no 3-second rule inside the shaded area and 25-second regulation to shoot the ball.
We reinvented the art of dribbling
We first heard the word dribble when a Securities and Exchange Official testified in Congress about his conversation with Erap when the latter was still President. Erap was personally asking the status of a pending case against a gaming company principally owned by a Hong Kong gambling tycoon. When the agency’s official informed the former president that his office already had come out with a ruling on the case, Erap casually told him, “i-dribble mo muna ang kaso.”
Now that he is facing a number of plunder cases, he asks his lawyers to dribble them.
So the teams are all out there, the referees and the officials all, and one son of a bitch keeps on dribbling the frigging ball!
No 3-second rule and 25-second regulation. Just dribble the sphere till hell freezes over. This is what happens in all judicial and administrative offices.
Delay as capital
Delay is endemic. Delay is etched on the faces of workers and laborers asking the labor court to declare their dismissals illegal. Ask the litigants how long their civil and criminal cases are on the dock and one gets a nonchalant answer of ten years and counting, and still the case lags at the trial court level.
Ask an opinion from an administrative agency, and whether an answer is forthcoming or not is one big puzzle. Right, there is that Code of Conduct, but who wants to antagonize the chief? We all want a positive resolution of our problems and by complaining that the awaited reply has mossed, only courts a long and winded conclusion. There is truth to the age old truism that a single case has its own genealogy! The expectant litigant ends up enmeshed in a never ending tempest. Thus, it becomes more prudent just to sit it out and wait. Remember, we have all the time in the world. The hotshot office chief, on his own sweet time, dribbles the citizen’s life and death.
There is the now evolved taking care of one’s business. Remember that the take home pay of these government apparatchiks nears starvation. They are aghast by the astronomical fees of the high earning law firms that bill their clients in several digits for approval of some innocuous papers from their agencies, while they, the persons most sought after reel in hunger pay.
While we learnt the term from our neighbouring tailor shop, the resourceful agency head has made everything difficult to the lowly citizen who religiously follows-up his otherwise cob-webbed claim papers. The poor applicant becomes a fixture in the agency, ignored by the clerks and of course by the assistant chief, the deputy chief, and the top chief, who invariably are out of the office on some official business like lunches with some top government chief, business trips, seminars, meeting, and myriad other excuses that justify the 24-month incubation of their action on the humble request. Until some sympathetic Samaritan from the agency takes notice of the hermit waiting in the anteroom and sidling up, solicitously offers some help on the poor fellow. “Kami na ang lalakad niyan. Hecho derecho.” Rationalizing the cause of delay, the kind hearted insider suggests that some vital requirements are amiss, and with their submission, the much-awaited ruling is just around the corner. “Kami na ang bahala.” Relieved, the poor guy is willing the sell his soul to the devil.
The poor supplicant asks how much to prepare, and the generous man makes an assessment. Usually it includes the agency’s fees and of course the success fee. Soon, this isolated deal became the order of the day.
The most notorious agencies steeped in this nefarious arrangement are the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Immigration, Regional Trial Courts, Court of Appeals, and the Registers of Deeds. Day in and day out, we see individuals and companies crowding the receiving rooms of these agencies. The sight of the crowd never ceases to please the bosses because the bigger the crowd the higher the odds in hecho derecho.
Some fall on the hecho derecho. Why wouldn’t they? Because it cuts on waiting time. Some of us indeed have no time to spare because they have to leave out of here and the great majority of us, all suckers for waiting, mired in our own self-flagellation. That is why the Mother of Perpetual Help is a great hit among us. Baclaran is one colossal time machine where thousands daily congregate asking the heavens for deliverance from waiting. They waited for a life time didn’t they, thus, they deserve divine relief.
The reasons for dribble are countless
Erap has bum knees, bum stomach, bum head, one kid is sick?, and others.
Don’t look far. One regional trial court has a number of dramatis personae. You have the judge, the fiscal, the stenographer, the complainant’s lawyer, the respondent’s lawyer, and hopefully the last, any witness of either party. Where any of them is nowhere on the date assigned for any proceeding, the case is cancelled and reset for another time. We have not counted bomb threats, storm signal number 3 or just plain non-stop downpour, brown out, and transport strike yet. How about coups? They are soon gaining grounds.
In two years tops an LRT line and the North Expressway rehab were finished. The skyway and the C-5 were completed in less than three years. In six months we can have an overpass or a Cityland Condominium.
But a simple case of ejectment? Unbelievably fifteen years. How about the coconut levy and the Marcos sequestration cases? 20 years. While the lawyers dribble the cases, the villains are in possession and enjoy the annual ROI. Remember that in any property disputes the one in possession is 99% victorious. Despite the power of contempt, the magistrates are viewed with contempt and are powerless. While delay is system integrated, in these cases it is the government that is apparently throwing in the towel. Sooner, these deeply entombed PCGG cases are tabled for compromise and two revolutions past, it is business as usual.
With hundreds of applicants for every RTC, CA, and Supreme Court vacancies, the expectant nominee is willing to sell his soul to the devil. There is a logjam in the application process. Comes the naming route, one law firm acts as the traffic enforcer. Not willing to be tagged as cornering the market or kapalmuks, this law firm spun off several other law offices acting as fronts.
Contrary to the insight of Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion of sanitizing the judicial appointments from politics thru the constitutional scrutiny of the politicized Commission on Appointments, his brainchild the Judicial and Bar Council evolved as a rubber stamp of the President. The Executive has an untrammelled discretion in its appointment to the Highest Court.
With an annual output of 1,600 lawyers, the Supreme Court is assured of a respectable crowd before its receiving windows. With the onset of the Judiciary Adjustment Law sourcing the increase of the magistrates’ salaries from filing and docket fees, they grin from ear to ear seeing the long queue before the receiving clerk. Soon the high tribunal is earning the reputation as anti-poor in its selective entertainment of cases based on capacity to pay.
We have seen well-meaning complainants throwing in the towel after years of unfailingly attending court hearings. They see the futility of the exercise. What they notice are the smirks on the faces of their antagonists aided by the dribbling lawyer and sanctioned by the indolent or cautious arbiter.
In the NLRC some commissioners there are sporting BMWs and other expensive vehicles. Does the Labor Secretary conduct lifestyle checks in that agency? Invariably, respondents in NLRC are big corporations. One bank was ordered by the labour arbiter to pay its messengers P16M in back wages and ordered their reinstatement. On appeal, the bank has to post supersedeas bond equivalent to the monetary award, or the order becomes final. In effect, the bank was telling the NLRC that it has earmarked an equivalent amount ready for disposition in exchange for a favourable decision. The outcome was as predicted. A single case turned some lucky individuals into millionaires. No wonder these Commissioners have the gall to ostentatiously drive downtown in expensive cars.
To the lowly workers, appeal to the Court of Appeals is one big hurdle. By going to a higher court, the poor worker shells out P5,000.00 for appeal and docket fees. By asking to sue as pauper, the unemployed party has to secure certifications from local agencies attesting his economic state. Once again, the marginal worker begs for attention from the receiving windows of these dribblers. In the midst of his wait, his family goes hungry.
The NLRC, just like the Ombudsman, have hotshots for a client. There are hundreds if not thousands of employers with ample monetary arsenal to change the minds of a handful of judges ensconced in an office called to enforce a “law biased in favour of the workers”. But with enough grease, the tilt is altered towards the company. The owner is prepared to go to any length just to teach the complaining worker a lesson. A victory to a worker, to the mind of the owner, spells the seeds of rebellion among the ranks. Besides, didn’t the company give the worker a chance to live by giving him work and here he is suing the company as if he knows what the law is. The company simply has no room for ingrates.
The Ombudsman as Grease Watershed
As to the Ombudsman, think of an agency where the respondents are super-millionaires. Here, the respondents are either, take your pick: mayors, congressmen, governors, district engineers, directors, superintendents, treasurers, etc. One innocent call to one respondent is enough to open the gate of Fort Knox.
Complainants are into mistaken belief that when they file their charge sheet before the Ombudsman they are doing this country a great service by discouraging corruption. Wrong. These complainants are unwittingly creating a new layer of graft. For any transaction, the grafter makes a provision for contingency for the benefit of the Ombudsman on top of the COA. One mayor accused of graft in the Ombudsman has a classic description: the thicker the complaint, the thicker the bribe.
Elective officials are the favourite of the Ombudsman. These lowlifes slug it out with public funds. Assuaging his conscience the hit man assures himself, “pera pera lang walang personalan!” Notwithstanding ample proof, the guilty party remains scot-free.
Look what happened in Batangas and Cavite. In Batangas, in the face of overwhelming evidence that the winning company is peopled by the provincial chief’s relatives, the Ombudsman in a contorted logic dismissed the case. In Cavite, the DILG chief in utter contempt ignored the order of suspension of the Ombudsman, notwithstanding the lifting of an injunction from the Court of Appeals, suspending the sitting governor. The reason, according to the Interior Agency, is that a higher court might issue another freeze order and they are therefore wasting their time. What is the use therefore of prompt implementation when there is a court out there fast on the draw chilling the directive of the Ombudsman. In the end the reputation and credibility of the institution suffers. In these parts, the self-important official believes he is greater than his office.
There are hornbook laws that say where a public officer has been arraigned by the Sandiganbayan or the courts, a mandatory 90-day suspension is issued. More often, the suspended official goes to a higher court asking for a restraining order. The anomaly is where the TRO comes from the Supreme Court. It ends till kingdom come. What happens to the Sandiganbayan case? It is in deep slumber. There are laws that canalize the duration of freeze rulings. 20 days for the inferior courts and 60 days for the appellate court. Our high tribunal is too high, the laws simply can’t reach it. The disturbing ego-trip rationale is simply it interprets what the law meant. This mental frame of superiority in their spheres promotes the culture of delay. Tenure to these officials is one big picnic. They can not be stampeded to act with dispatch.
When the opposition thought all the stars are in alignment for GMA’s departure, FVR’s lonely comet refused to abide. There simply is no natural law for people power. It was presumptuous for Frank Drilon and Cory Aquino to architecture another mass disenchantment.
FVR, as the flow of events proved, saved the day for GMA.
FVR, however has an agenda. This to him is the right time to design a shift from presidential to parliamentary. GMA, aware of the peculiarity of the system and her tenacious hold on power, humoured FVR.
It has been almost two years from the crisis, GMA has consolidated her hold on the presidency. She knows how to use her prerogatives including direct management and control of PAGCOR and PCSO. Her lawyers began rolling options to charter change. There were the constitutional assembly tack consuming the legal minds of Congress, the direct initiative funded thru the backdoor by the gaming corporations, and the local assemblies reminiscent of FM’s citizens’ assemblies whetting the appetite of local officials for unaccounted national funds, etc.
What do these activities spell?
FVR is being dribbled
GMA coasts to her 2010 term limit. Our leaders sing discordant nursery rhymes and its business as usual.