De Lima: The welfare of the people is the supreme law

October 19, 2011 10:03 pm 

MANILA, Oct. 19 – "Salus populi est suprema lex. The welfare of the people is the supreme law."

This was the statement issued on Wednesday by Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila M. De Lima on the Supreme Court (SC) ruling upholding the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 10153, postponing the August 8, 2011 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and synchronizing it with the national and local elections in May 2013.

The same law allows President Benigno S. Aquino III to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) in the ARMM, whose term of office expired on September 30, 2011.

"No advocate of the law or public servant could aspire to serve under a higher principle. It is a recognition that laws and rules derive their value from how well they serve their purpose of protecting and promoting the public good," De Lima said.

The DOJ chief said that when discussing issues of legality, the question of what will truly benefit the people is not merely always relevant, but, in fact, deserves the highest consideration.

"These are the fundamental sentiments that we, the proponents and advocates for the merits of R.A. 10153, had in mind when we supported the suspension of the elections in the ARMM and the appointment of qualified and accountable OICs to the key positions in the region," she stressed.

De Lima said they were moved by what they clearly saw as being the current state of affairs in the ARMM.

"We saw an administrative set-up that was not responsive to the needs of the people; public officials who abused and prostituted their public offices for personal gain; a culture of violence, fear and impunity that turned the constituent-public into silent victims," she added.

She pointed out that, most of all, they saw that holding the elections under the prevailing conditions would only make a mockery of the electoral system and the people's right of suffrage.

De Lima also cited the Maguindanao massacre that claimed the lives of 57 civilians, including 15 women and 30 media practitioners, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.

She said that the real value of the decision of the SC is not merely in terms of the funds that were saved from not holding the ARMM elections this year.

"The real importance of this decision is in the opportunity for change it gives us," De Lima said.

Postponing the ARMM elections and synchronizing it with the national elections in 2013, De Lima said, will accord the government and ARMM people alike with the opportunity to make a clean break from the abuses of the past and rebuild the region from the ground up.

"We are convinced that the time between now and May 2013 is more than adequate to give us the time and resources to institute and realize much-needed good governance reforms. (PNA) DCT/scs/PTR/utb

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