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Jul 25

Negotiating the Budget

In his blog, Jove Francisco gave an outstanding behind-the-scenes account of the State of the Nation Address, as well as a critique from the invaluable point of view of someone who has covered the President throughout her stay in office. He also gives a sneak peek into the proposed national budget, which (again) the President didn’t submit to Congress on the day of her speech (unlike her predecessors). To be sure, press releases were issued outlining the proposed budget; and news reports indicate that the President has approved the budget to be submitted. However, the proposed budget won’t actually be submitted to the House until August 22, which is two days before the deadline set by law.

Yesterday, on Twink Macaraig’s show, I suggested that the President’s consistent failure (or more properly, refusal to conform with tradition, much as of course she complies with the deadlines imposed by law) to submit her proposed budget after making her speech, reflects her approach to the presidency and her attitude towards building the Congressional alliances necessary to get things done. As I’ve said in the past, agenda-setting is one of the biggest powers of any president. The State of the National Address sets the agenda, both for Congress and the public. But the proposed budget is, in terms of the House at least, the only agenda that matters.

The House has the exclusive power of the purse; even the Senate can only wait for the General Appropriations Act crafted by the House, before it can, in turn, propose further amendments and revisions (if the House dilly-dallies, the Senate gets blamed for a late passage of the budget). Since the President, however, submits a proposed budget, the deliberations of Congress is essentially circumscribed by the chief executive’s proposals. At the end of the whole thing is the President’s ability to veto legislation, including whatever General Appropriations Act the Congress passes.

Now, to return to my point on the significance of the President’s not submitting her proposed budget after she delivers her Sona.

I told Twink there can only be two reasons. The first would be, inefficiency when it comes to what President Marcos used to call “complete staff work.” The proposed budget hasn’t been submitted on time, because the required work wasn’t done on time, which would indicate inefficiency in the executive branch. To give the President and the bureaucracy the benefit of the doubt, I am inclined to assume that isn’t the reason.

The other reason, then, I proposed, must be a tactical one. The President, who always lavishes a lot of time and attention on patronage-related projects which other presidents weren’t inclined to dwell on, views her Sona as a kind of appetizer. It’s a way of dangling projects before her supporters (and potential allies even from opposition circles) without actually committing to them right away. By delaying the submission of the proposed budget, the President has additional time to accomodate allies and punish enemies. It is much easier for the House to approve a presidential proposal, than it is to strike it out. A president’s budget proposal sets the parameters, which is why previous presidents actively involved the House in the formulation of the budget. Presidents have also always maintained an office in Congress, to nurse the budget and their other pet legislation through the legislative mill.

Thing is, past presidents were not tentative about budget proposals, the way the current President is. Being tentative suits her fine, and illustrates how she believes everything is negotiable, and it suggests how tentatively, too, she views her office and its powers. Now to be sure, the process more or less works, for her. I told Twink that the President is like a gardener, fussing over hundreds of little potted plants in a greenhouse; all that fussing produces results. It’s not how her predecessors would have done it (the Speaker, for one, was supposed to do that fussing), but it’s the way the President likes to attend to matters.

It shows, too, how slovenly Congress has become: and additionally, how spoiled the House has become. If everything, always, is negotiable, then there isn’t an incentive to produce results, and on time. The end result is that to muster a quorum to consider the budget, “incentives” have to be applied, and the same, for all we know, may apply to committees charged with deliberating on the budget, too. A far cry from the days when a president created momentum two ways, through the Sona and the submission of the proposed budget, simultaneously, a proposal, incidentally, that already went through the consensus-building process prior to submission.

Anyway, outside of the President’s partisan political constituency, her other major constituency, businessmen, have been muted in their response. See The Unlawyer’s summary of business’ reactions.

Mongster’s Nest provides a thorough critique of his own, of the Sona. Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas! wonders what the fuss was about.
In the blogosphere, I enjoyed this entry very much, in the blog of Jae Fever. There is a kind of fulfillment from a sense of philosophical detachment. Much as we more often than not disagree, faithful readers like Rego and Bencard (and even occasional visitors like Benign0) do make a vital point when they ask, what’s all the hubbub about, and, with all the attention focused on the President, the deeper problems won’t vanish, even if she vanished, and whether she goes sooner or later, what will those who are itching to replace her hope to achieve? AKOMISO answers, very well, I think, these questions, even as he points out the flaws in such questions.

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  1. justice league

    Cvj,

    Trillanes can’t attend sessions
    By Rhodina Villanueva (Philstar)
    Tuesday, July 31, 2007

    “…
    On the other hand, the camp of Trillanes accused state prosecutors of practicing “double standards,” since former governor Nur Misuari of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, who is facing charges of rebellion, was allowed to go to Sulu and Saudi Arabia.

    “Comparing to the case of former ARMM governor Nur Misuari who is under house arrest in New Manila, the latter was allowed to go to Mindanao and campaign during the May 14 elections,” read the brief of Trillanes.

    “The double standards being practiced by the DOJ prosecutors in the handling of the motions or requests of the accused similarly charged with non-bailable offense is so clear and apparent that their opposition in this case do not command or carry any credibility at all.”

    However, (Judge Oscar)Pimentel said: “The invocation of Misuari’s case is all in vain since none of the state prosecutors are privy to that case, and that Trillanes has no personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances surrounding that case.”… ”

    Judge Pimentel was apparently compelled to dispel the seeming inconsistency of the DOJ stand in the 2 cases. I however think he is assuming that the DOJ secretary doesn’t know the lines of reasoning undertaken by his own people in the 2 high profile cases.

    I don’t think Judge Pimentel is handling the Misuari case so whatever inconsistency (if there be any) there can be properly placed to head of the DOJ.

    Even Baggini stated “Nonetheless, the tu quoque move does at least force us to confront the apparent inconsistency.”

    So Baggini eventually admits the “tu quoque” argument can’t be simply disregarded just because it is “tu quoque”.

    So is there any other line of argument that has such “force” as “tu quoque”?

  2. cvj

    If Sen. Trillanes’ lawyers point out that the DOJ or the government allows detainee Misuari to do this and that but won’t allow Sen. Trillanes to do something similar; would that be Tu Quoque? – Justice League

    I think Trillanes’ camp are arguing on the basis of precedent which i think is normal and accepted practice within the justice system. Of course, it has to be shown that the precedent really applies (which i think it does in this case) or else it would really be Tu Quoque.

    (I think Pimentel’s assumption that Trillanes lawyers are not privy to the facts of the case is invalid because the case and the way it has been decided is (or should at least be) a matter of public record.

    Even Baggini stated “Nonetheless, the tu quoque move does at least force us to confront the apparent inconsistency.”

    So Baggini eventually admits the “tu quoque” argument can’t be simply disregarded just because it is “tu quoque”.

    As i said above, on this point we agree. To the thinking person, even a logical fallacy has its uses.

  3. justice league

    Cvj,

    (I think Trillanes’ camp are arguing on the basis of precedent which i think is normal and accepted practice within the justice system. Of course, “it has to be shown” that the precedent really applies (which i think it does in this case) or else it would really be Tu Quoque.)-cvj

    Precedent can be used to determine consistency or inconsistency.

    Then the question or issue initially brought up with what seems to be a Tu Quoque argument has to be faced before it is actually determined to be a Tu Quoque.

  4. cvj

    Then the question or issue initially brought up with what seems to be a Tu Quoque argument has to be faced before it is actually determined to be a Tu Quoque. – Justice League

    Yup, which is why Tu Quoque is oftentimes an effective tactic especially if one is not aware that such a fallacy exists.

  5. justice league

    Cvj,

    “Yup, which is why Tu Quoque is oftentimes an effective tactic especially if one is not aware that such a fallacy exists.”-cvj

    Fallacy connotes something so negative.

    We have noted above in the example of Trillanes’ case that what appears to be Tu Quoque at first glance might not be so negative in connotation as long as certain factors really apply which in this case you have stated as precedence.

    Anyway, since what appears to be a Tu Quoque has to be faced in order to determine if it is actually a Tu Quoque; labelling an argument as Tu Quoque without facing it is not much of a help in the argument.

    I guess we have reached the end of this discussion.

  6. cvj

    Fallacy connotes something so negative. – Justice League

    A fallacy points to a defect in logic. If your aim is to reach a conclusion supported by logic, then a fallacy is always negative. On the other hand, logic is not the be all and end all so perhaps you’re right that fallacies are not always a bad thing.

    …labelling an argument as Tu Quoque without facing it is not much of a help in the argument. – Justice League

    To those who prefer to use reason, awareness of the existence of such a logical fallacy is a value in itself. Of course, we have to recognize that Tu Quoque is both harder to spot and easier to misapply than other more obvious fallacies (like ad hominem attacks).

  7. justice league

    Cvj,

    “To those who prefer to use reason, awareness of the existence of such a logical fallacy is a value in itself.”-cvj

    Very well.

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