Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie, Jakarta – The government has asked the Constitutional Court to reject a petition for a judicial review of Regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) No. 1/2020 on the COVID-19 pandemic response, saying that the Perppu has already been passed into law.
Finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly and Attorney General ST Burhanuddin attended a hearing on Wednesday to represent President Joko "Joko" Widodo after the Constitutional Court summoned him and a delegation from the House of Representatives last week to give their testimony.
The legislative body did not send a delegation to the hearing.
"The House has given its approval in a plenary session to pass Perppu No. 1/2020 into law," Sri Mulyani told the bench during Wednesday's hearing, "The government has ratified the House's approval through the issuance of Law No.2/2020."
With the passing of the Perppu into law, the plaintiffs – comprising five groups of anticorruption activists, including the Indonesian Anticorruption Community (MAKI) – may have failed in their legal objective as they specifically filed the judicial review against the Perppu.
Kurniawan Adi Nughroho, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, demanded the finance minister provide documentation as evidence that the Perppu had been passed into Law no. 2/2020.
Another lawyer, Ahmad Yani, also argued before the court that the passing of the Perppu was too quick as it was decided only in one sitting period.
The Perppu was signed by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on March 31 and passed by the House into law on May 12.
"Article 22 Paragraph 2 of the 1945 Constitution clearly stipulates that [a Perppu] must obtain the House's approval in the next sitting period. Since this Perppu was approved or issued by the President during the [House's] third sitting period, it means that [the approval] should be in the fourth sitting period," Ahmad said.
Constitutional Court Chief Justice Anwar Usman, who presided over Wednesday's hearing, said the court would discuss the finance minister's testimony and would soon notify the plaintiffs and the President regarding the results.
The hearing session ended after only 15 minutes.
The Perppu, now Law No. 2/2020, allows the government to extend the state budget deficit beyond the normal 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) limit and allocate the spending to programs related to COVID-19 relief.
Article 27 of the Perppu contains provisions that protect officials who make the fiscal and monetary decisions from any legal charges, as long as they act "in good faith and according to the law".
Critics and antigraft activists fear that this provision might lead to budget misappropriation and embezzlement.
Filing the petition on April 9, the plaintiffs argued that Article 27 violated the 1945 Constitution and several prevailing laws, including the 2003 State Finances Law and the 2006 Supreme Audit Agency Law.
However, Yasonna has denied that the Perppu would provide officials with impunity from graft charges if corruption were to occur, adding that Article 27 was only meant to ensure that the government could make swift decisions in mitigating the health crisis.
Speaking after Wednesday's hearing, MAKI coordinator Boyamin Saiman said that the plaintiffs had filed another petition for a judicial review against Law No. 2/2020 on Wednesday.
"This petition was filed as an indication of our insistence on revoking the impunity for financial officials as stipulated in Article 27 of the law," Boyamin said in a written statement.
"The main purpose of this petition is solely to achieve equality before the law that applies to all people, including officials, and to provide an assurance that officials will be careful in issuing policies and decisions in managing state finances in the face of the pandemic, in a proper, correct and corruption-free manner."