JOAQUIN BERNAS, S.J., is the favorite Constitutionalist of many people, especially those who supported the Edsa 1 and 2 People Power events, though much distinction-making between them has lately been fashionable. Being not only a Roman Catholic priest and a leading light at the Ateneo de Manila University, as well as legal circles generally, Father Bernas is also a literal forefather of the post-Marcos Republic, as an original member of then President Corazon Aquino's Constitutional Commission, which drafted the current 1987 Freedom Constitution. As with our most influential thinkers, Fr. Bernas is also a newspaper columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Fr. Bernas wreaks a devastating essay of retrospective on the most infamous legacies of the Philippine Supreme Courts with his superb piece this week, THE SUPREME COURT AS LEGITIMIZING AGENT-- (a tour of the worst Decisions of the Philippine Supreme Court)
WE ARE WONT TO SPEAK OF THE SUPREME Court as the last bulwark of our liberties and the ultimate defender of constitutionalism. That is the general truth. This is true because of the Court's power of judicial review which leads to the truism that the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, means what the Supreme Court says it means. Thus it is that, in the history of our nation, there have been instances when the Supreme Court has legitimized official action offensive to human rights and disruptive of constitutionalism. Hence, as we await the decision of the current Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the gag rule in Executive Order 464, and of Proclamation 1017 and the various official actions it occasioned, as well as the uses of BP 880, it might be salutary to review how our Supreme Court has sometimes, to our national regret, played around with sacred constitutional principles.This was only Fr. Bernas' lead. Please read the rest of his piece. He wonders what the present Supreme Court will do with all the weighty cases before it and yet to come! But I shall leave for Father Bernas' sharp scalpel the gruesome task of laying bare to the brave reader, the execrable depths to which past Philippine Supreme Courts have sunk in the past, in the canine service of Marcos the Dictator, in the legitimization of several intellectually and morally reprehensible Decisions of the almighty Supreme Court. It seems to be his parabolic but effective means of expressing a lack of confidence in the Supreme Court of Artemio Panganiban to RISE to the level of moral and intellectual ethos required to successfully rule and decide these matters. CPR... EO 464...BP 880...Proclamation 1017...the Garci Cases, looming impeachment, rebellion and coup d'etat charges against senators, congressmen, journalists, soldiers, mutineers...the morass of potentially landmark cases gathering at the High Court, or rotting there, is a real challenge to the Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.
IS THE SUPREME COURT INFALLIBLE? Fr. Bernas deserves a lot of credit for administering this medicine now to whatever is left of the thinking Public. It has not been even slightly his fault, (but for a religious association), that the Public paradoxically is still taught to believe in the INFALLIBILITY of the Supreme Court, despite this history of successively lower nadirs attained by its past incarnations. I think this has something do with the fact that in Roman Catholicism, the teachings of the Roman Pontiff are deemed to be infallible in certain special cases, but the distinctions have historically been lost even on the most faithful. Thus the legitimate desire for an ideal, infallible Supreme Court, to a willing suspension of disbelief that in any particular case the Supreme Court might be wrong. I believe that the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is, but I also believe that the Supreme Court can REVERSE any past decision it has made! It does not seem reasonable to me, outside of a religious theology, to believe otherwise about the Supreme Court of any democratic country.
A Layman's Tenet: THE ONLY INFALLIBILITY ACCORDED TO THE SUPREME COURT LIES IN ITS CORRIGIBILITY...THE INHERENT ABILITY TO REVERSE ANY PAST DECISION.
Yet we await with bated breath for Father Bernas to go all the way, having opened up this line of questioning...am waiting for Father Bernas to confront the constitutional and moral issues of EDSA 2 in the light of Proclamation 1017. What does he think for example, about Estrada vs. Arroyo (March 2001) now? Wasn't that also the same sort of Vast Leftist Rightist Conspiracy complete with a Military Mutiny which the government is now making VIDEOS about?--