Much has already been said about the incident involving Budget Secretary Butch Abad and a score of student protesters at the University of the Philippines the other week. Inquirer reporter Erika Sauler’s summary sentence, in a report she filed a few days after the incident, can serve as a helpful wrap-up: “As he exited the auditorium [and made his way] to his vehicle, a group of protesters from Stand UP (Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP) ganged up on him, calling him a thief as they threw crumpled pieces of paper, placards and coins in his direction.” Other reports described one protester grabbing Abad by the collar.
Regardless of where one stands on the issue, whether the students were justified in their violent protest or not, the incident seems to me to demonstrate that words in fact have consequences in the real world.
When the Supreme Court released its decision finding parts of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional, the following two paragraphs were immediately taken as justification for the anti-DAP position.
“Nonetheless, as Justice [Arturo] Brion has pointed out during the deliberations, the doctrine of operative fact does not always apply, and is not always the consequence of every declaration of constitutional invalidity. It can be invoked only in situations where the nullification of the effects of what used to be a valid law would result in inequity and injustice; but where no such result would ensue, the general rule that an unconstitutional law is totally ineffective should apply.
“In that context, as Justice Brion has clarified, the doctrine of operative fact can apply only to the PAPs that can no longer be undone, and whose beneficiaries relied in good faith on the validity of the DAP, but cannot apply to the authors, proponents and implementors of the DAP, unless there are concrete findings of good faith in their favor by the proper tribunals determining their criminal, civil, administrative and other liabilities.”
In other words, President Aquino, Abad and other officials were deemed guilty until proven innocent (or possessing good faith). I think there is a straight line from this extraordinary inversion, from Justice Brion’s hand, to Abad’s collar.