EARLIER this week, President Obama’s health care law, which affects all Americans, including us, Filipino-Americans, was dealt a serious blow when a federal judge in Richmond, Virginia ruled that the government cannot require every American to buy health insurance.

Hence, the section of the law was declared unconstitutional.

“An individual’s personal decision to purchase — or decline to purchase — health insurance from a private provider is beyond the historical reach of the Commerce Clause,” said U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson.

According to a news report, Judge Hudson is a Republican appointee.

The U.S. Constitution provides the Commerce Clause in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, which gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”

Meanwhile, in the native country, during the election campaign earlier this year that led to his presidency, President Benigno Aquino III pledged to the Filipino people that if elected, he would end corruption and its concomitant evils.

His pledge was expressed in a simplistic slogan, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”

The Filipinos embraced him and his pledge.

He won with a wide mandate.

So, when he assumed the highest office, Mr. Aquino issued Executive Order No. 1 which created the Truth Commission chaired by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., who became a friend of many Filipino-Americans in our area when he was Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations.

According to the Executive Order, the Commission was tasked to “primarily seek and find the truth on, and toward this end, investigate reports of graft and corruption of such scale and magnitude that shock and offend the moral and ethical sensibilities of the people, committed by public officers and employees, their co-principals, accomplices and accessories from the private sector, if any, during the previous administration (Arroyo’s); and thereafter recommend the appropriate action or measure to be taken thereon to ensure that the full measure of justice shall be served without fear or favor.”

Last week, 10 justices of the Philippine Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Renato Corona nullified Executive Order No. 1 declaring it unconstitutional because it violated the provision of the Philippine Constitution on equal protection clause.

(The Truth Commission is now virtually a false commission.)

What is equal protection clause?

The Philippine Constitution provides that time-honored clause in its Bill of Rights patterned after the U. S. Constitution.

The Equal Protection Clause is part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

It provides that “no state shall...deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

According to Wikipedia, the Equal Protection Clause can be seen as an attempt to secure the promise of the United States’ professed commitment to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”

The Philippine Supreme Court concluded the Truth Commission as discriminatory to the civil rights of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because the latter was singled out as the only target of the Commission’s tasked investigations to the exclusion of other past administrations.

In addition, the highest court decided that President Aquino did not have the power under existing laws to create a public office like the Truth Commission because that power belongs to Congress.

In view of all the above, perhaps, some apologists for Mr. Aquino might say that it’s not only their boss P-Noy who commits a “palpak” job, but even an American President.

That’s a wrong comparison.

Firstly, what the American judge declared as unconstitutional was merely a section of the law under question.

Besides, it was a federal judge who made the decision.

That ruling could still be challenged or even reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Filipino Supreme Court justices decided that Executive Order No. 1 was null and void from the start.

Although, the decision could be appealed before the same court, as the Filipino Reporter editorial mentioned last week, it is unlikely the decision would be reversed by the same court.

Secondly, the authority of the office (Congress) that passed the Health Care Law was not an issue.

It was one of the provisions of the law which was the issue.

In the Philippine case, it was the authority of the creating office (of the President) which was the issue.

Finally, we are all witness to how U.S. Congress carefully crafted the Health Care Reform Law for almost a year.

In the case of the Truth Commission, again, the Filipino Reporter editorial last week accurately observed when it referred to the Aquino Administration, “It smacks of shoddy legal staff work, or naked arrogance, that having won the presidential election by a vast majority, it can short circuit the justice system.”

Political mandate, no matter how wide and extensive, is not an excuse to abuse power.

How can investors, especially foreign ones, gain the confidence of this administration if it keeps doing “palpak” work with an excuse of “temporary setback?”

Imagine, its very first Executive Order was declared unconstitutional by the highest court of the land!

Those investors might ask, “If they cannot put their acts together, how can they protect our interests and investments?”

There is a saying, it is usually the first that hurts.

The Aquino Administration must have been very hurt by what happened to its first Executive Order.

But, then, it is not their first “setback.”

Perhaps, it may be asked, is it the tree itself or the branches of the tree?

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