Budget woes? Think North Korea!
For the House of Representatives to give the Commission on Human Rights a budget of only P1,000 instead of the P678 million it was seeking is not undemocratic, as suggested by Vice President Leni Robredo. The amount may be frivolous. And it may have abused its power of discretion. But democracy was never in question over what the House did. For the vice president to say so is, to say the least, off the mark.
The power of the purse resides with Congress, a power vested in it by the Constitution. As representatives of the people, it is an authority that emanates from them. Instead of being undemocratic or being a threat to democracy, nothing in fact can be more democratic. If, in the exercise of that power, certain abuses are committed by individual members of Congress, then there are democratic means of rectifying those abuses.
Those individual members, for instance, may be punished by the people in the next elections. And to politicians, no punishment is harsher and more painful than failure to get elected. But that is the democratic way. As to the power to continue disbursing public money the way it sees fit, for as long as that power does not get withdrawn or repealed by a constitutional act, then that will remain the democratic, if nettlesome, way of allocating public money.
It is, therefore, not a problem involving the institution but of the people belonging to it. If there are people whose brains are too small to handle all that power, then that is just the price we have to pay for choosing democracy to rule our lives. Those people did not thrust themselves into office. We did. We were direct and willing participants in their installation.
There are times when Congress acts in accordance with public expectations and there are times when it does not. And it is not whether it acts more often one way and less often the other. It is how we accept its limitations and imperfections because, quite frankly, we have no choice. We are stuck with democracy, especially our brand of democracy, so either we learn to get cozy with it or we do not.
We may not like what Congress did. What it did may have been wrong. But that is democracy in action. It shows democracy is alive and well in the Philippines. For things could have been far worse, just as they are in other countries. In North Korea, for example, nobody knows how their budgets are made, or if they even have a budget at all. Yet, if their leader gives nothing, everyone will clap. They must be happy in what is officially called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.