Executive fiat


Now that the Legislative branch is in sine die recess, the spotlight shifts ever brightly to the Executive branch to enforce the laws, and the President wasted no time. The blitzkrieg started last Saturday when President Rodrigo Duterte, in an interview with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy on Facebook Live, issued orders that were carried out by the government in the days to come.

First victim was Kapa Community Ministry Inc. (Kapa), a company started in Bislig, Surigao del Sur that grew into a reported P50 billion enterprise with offices all over the Philippines. In his Facebook Live interview, Duterte ordered the closure of Kapa for luring Filipinos to invest their hard-earned money in an investment scam. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) previously issued a cease and desist order against Kapa, which the latter defied on the claim that its acts are classified as religious exercises, beyond the jurisdiction of the SEC. It was learned that the investments to Kapa are characterized as religious “gifts” and returns are termed as “blessings.” These got the ire of the President.

Given the colorful history of the President with Catholicism, no mercy is expected to be given to Kapa, which has been hiding behind the veil of its being a purported religious institution.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) swiftly raided the residence of Kapa’s founder in General Santos City. In the same day, the SEC held a press conference where chair Emil Aquino himself announced that criminal charges will be filed against Kapa.

Next victim was Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) where a whistleblower unveiled the shady dealings of clinics with the government agency — a practice that is commonly known in the medical industry. Former House member and presidential spokesman Harry Roque stood as counsel of the whistleblowers to bolster their confidence in exposing the truth. Ghost patients were made beneficiaries of dialysis treatments, orchestrated by low-key clinics, shaving off millions from government funds, in cahoots with PhilHealth officials. After this, more and more clinics started making calls to media to expose the corruption in PhilHealth.

President Duterte ordered the arrest of the owners of the identified clinic, WellMed. The owners instead turned themselves in to the NBI and offered their explanation, which has come too late amid the public outcry against them. Last Tuesday evening, President Duterte summoned the Board of Directors of PhilHealth to Malacañang and called for their resignation.

What comes next is still unknown, but we can expect a lot of vacancies in PhilHealth that must soon be filled up by competent doctors and finance experts. This must be a welcome development in the medical field for its being shortchanged by the government for such a long time. To recall, President Duterte recently fired the director general of the Food and Drug Administration, a post that has yet to filled.

The last area that caught the President’s attention this week was the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which suffered terrible delays caused by a reported lightning strike. The President himself made a surprise inspection at NAIA Terminal 2, accompanied by Manila International Airport Authority general manager Ed Monreal and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general Jim Sydiongco. While no heads will roll as a result of this inspection, the President saw for himself the need for a new airport. He added that Sangley Point, Cavite may be developed as an airport for domestic travel.

You may ask, what would have been the difference if Congress was in session this week?

Surely, the President’s allies would have filed the corresponding resolution calling for an investigation in aid of legislation. This would spell a lot of stress for the involved government officials for they would be hauled to either the halls of the Senate or House, or both.
Legislators would have had a heyday in summoning the Kapa higher-ups and the rumored local elected officials in Mindanao supported by Kapa. I could also imagine how the legislators will question PhilHealth officials and how they have squandered their budget, though we can expect this in budget hearings when the 18th Congress resumes.

We would also have had more press conferences by members of the majority and minority in both houses of Congress for their respective takes on these issues. But since we are on recess, and a number of legislators are on vacation right now, President Duterte has the spotlight and he has performed exceedingly well. Then again, with the strong majority he has in both houses this 18th Congress, we can assume that the President has the first and final say in the Legislative branch.

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