In so many ways, our government officials look to the United States (US) government and see how it operates with a view to applying what they learn to local conditions and problems. They must now be following closely US President Donald Trump’s battle to get $5.7 billion from a US Congress that refuses to provide it for a wall along the US-Mexico border.
The first time Trump did not get $5.7 billion for his wall – a campaign promise he is determined to fulfill — he preferred to reject the entire federal budget for 2019 and as a result, most of the US federal government had to shut down last December.
He relented after about a month and the US federal government reopened. But he has resorted to another tactic to get the funds for his wall. He declared a national emergency and moved to get $5.7 billion from the US Pentagon funds for military construction, the military’s anti-drug fund, and the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund.
His declaration of an emergency has now been challenged in court. There is no real emergency on the southern border, it is claimed. Much more crucial to Congress, including the president’s own Republican Party leaders, is the view that Trump’s move may have violated the US Constitution which vests in Congress alone the right to determine where public funds must go.
We in the Philippines had a similar problem over our national budget a few months ago. A senator claimed that members of our House of Representatives had included billions of pesos — alleged “pork barrel” — for public works projects in their districts. The congressmen countered that members of the Senate had included their own billions for their own projects. Finally, some House leaders charged that a member of the Duterte Cabinet, the secretary of budget and management, had included his own billions.
After all the claims and counter-claims, charges and counter-charges, the National Budget was finally approved by the bicameral Conference Committee in Congress. Our officials reached a consensus which, after all, is the essence of democratic governance. And finding a consensus is part of our Asian culture as Filipinos.
It is not likely that American officials will reach a similar consensus on their budget problem. Trump’s declaration of an emergency just so he could transfer public funds has now been challenged in US courts. It is bound to reach the US Supreme Court. A legal decision will ultimately resolve the problem.
This is as it should be, in the view of many, in a government of laws and not of men. On the other hand, because of our readiness to make allowances, a key part of our Asian culture, we quickly resolved the problem of our budget.
Someday, perhaps, we shall be able to decide which solution was in the best interest of the nation.