Earnie Baron used to say “Knowledge is Power” and I am confident that all of you will agree to his infamous conclusive statement. However, if power comes to the wrong hands or if power where to be given prematurely then what are we to expect but havoc and surely a disaster that might be hard to repair.
Ladies and gentlemen with that in mind, I will talk about why Cabinet members should be allowed to invoke executive privilege when being interrogated by the Senate Committee in the aid of legislation.
First, what is executive privilege? This is a privilege extended to the President of the Philippines or the head of the executive department to be exercised whenever there is a need to conceal “privilege information” from being brought forth to public knowledge, usually because of inquiries by Congress.
Executive privilege is derived from the doctrine of separation of powers among the co-equal branches of government. It is an expression of autonomy similarly enjoyed by other departments in other forms.
The legislative enjoys a presumption that the laws they make are always for the best interest of the people, the judiciary also enjoys the privacy of their deliberations in deciding cases. As a whole each department having a task of its own has to be able to execute these tasks smoothly and without fear of being scrutinized at every turn thus, the cause of inadequacies in the performance of their duties.
Going into duties, let us focus on what is expected from the executive branch. We learned that this branch administers and controls the enforcing of laws and rules within the state. With this such role, the executive branch needs to deliberate vast course of actions to be taken into consideration to be able to properly administer and insure that the laws of the land are implemented. With deliberations, naturally come meetings of intense conversations that need a strong sense of rapport trust and confidence amongst the members of these meetings. I think it is agreeable to say that you will be able to speak the best of your mind in a brainstorming session and contribute a good resolution to a problem if you are not to be hampered by any fear of being unnecessarily inspected and dissected, equivalent to disrespect.
And so I move on to voice out that Cabinet members should be able to invoke executive privilege whenever necessary. I am not saying this is an absolute right, for the Supreme Court has laid down the principles that govern when this privilege is raised. In the decided case of Senate vs. Ermita, the Supreme Court has laid down parts of the E.O 464 which prevents department heads among others from appearing in Congressional hearings without seeking the Presidents consent. The Court requires that only certain types of information can be considered within the context of being privileged. The types of information include those which are of a nature that disclosure would subvert military or diplomatic objectives, or information about the identity of persons who furnish information of violations of law, or information about internal deliberations comprising the process by which government decisions are reached. Pointing out that what is covered by the executive privilege is not a person or the executive department members but the information that is tagged as privilege and should therefore be secured.
Ultimately the information needed to be concealed is in connection with the duty of the state to ensure the best interests of the people at all times. Putting into public eye these types of information not only cracks the confidence and trust amongst the members of the executive branch but also severs any established harmonious relationships with other countries, groups or individuals. Knowledge is power indeed but we should also remember that power can be used to either build or destroy.