Doesn't our Constitution say that the Supreme Court is the supreme interpreter of the law of the land? I can still hear Fr. Bernas, S.J., one of ONLY two living experts in Constitutional Law the other being Justice V.V. Mendoza, lecturing that judicial power is the prerogative of the Supreme Court to decide rightly or wrongly over legal issues and still be right. What does that mean? It means that in our constitutional system of government whatever the Supreme Court says over a legal issue, be it logical and lucid decision or arbitrary word salad, is the last word on the matter. The rule of law compels us to obey what the Supreme Court says. That's why some years back when Prof. Alan Paguia lost a big case in the Supreme Court, he published an advertisement appealing to God Almighty to reverse the Supreme Court. In other words, if you lose a case in the Supreme Court, there is no place to appeal anymore but Heaven. If the Supreme Court says, for example, that lunatics can be lawyers, nobody can argue against that. Not the President. Not Congress. It's the law. Hell, we have many lawyer lunatics selling little booklets of their own.Ah yes, the old comfortable argument that the Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means. But IS there no higher court than the Supreme Court?
It is the Supreme Court's interpretation that Arroyo's succession is legitimate. Erap resigned, albeit constructively. It is a ruling that will probably be remembered as one of the ugliest, if not the ugliest. But the Supreme Court Justices could have just written the lyrics of "Impossible Dream" to support the decision and Fr. Bernas would have said it's the exercise of judicial power -- rightly or wrongly -- it is right. That's the law. It's final. There is no appeal to a higher court. So how can the ruling of the Supreme Court be a triumph of the rule of force?
Yes there is! The PRESENT Supreme Court of 2007 is not the same as the PAST Supreme Court which issued the anomalous ugliness called Estrada vs. Arroyo, in March 2001. The present Surpeme Court can overrule, revise, or reverse any past Decision by a past Supreme Court! That is how Santiago v. Comelec has been "reversed" on the matter of an enabling law.
That is how, after over a century of PRO-SLAVERY decision making, the US Supreme Court nonetheless came to bless the Manumission of the Negro Race by Abe Lincoln.
In other words, the supreme power of the Supreme Court is that it can always CORRECT itself.
The greatest virtue in every democratic institution is CORRIGIBILITY. Which is why it is FALSE to claim that that there is anything fundamentally permanent or final about any particular Supreme Court Decision, since they are all subject to change BY the Supreme Court itself.
Frederick Douglass, the great American Justice and abolitionist had this to say--
"Your forefathers were men of peace; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forebearance but they knew its limits. They believed in order but not the order of tyranny. With them nothing was "settled" that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were "final" -- but not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men, for they seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them."I hope this point stimulates further discussion on the alleged finality of Supreme Court decisions. Yesterday's decisions are not final relative to the possibilities of tomorrow!
But let me now tackle the more other important proposition in La Vida Lawyer that "There is no appeal to a higher court." Based on the argument on finality, one could easily claim that there IS appeal to a higher court--that the present Supreme Court is indeed, capable of reversing the past Supreme Court, though "appeal" may have to come indirectly or through some new case.
I believe there is a far more interesting notion that deserves consideration--
THE SPRING CANNOT RISE HIGHER THAN THE SOURCE!
Marvin Aceron's analysis (written in 2003) of Alan Paguia's The Rule of Force does not do justice to the truly provocative ideas therein, namely that Hilario G. Davide, Jr. was acting not as Chief Justice (though he was dressed for the part) but a co-conspirator with GMA on 20 Jan 2001--for there was no justiciable case before him to justify his suddenly appearing at the Edsa Shrine to swear her in. He should instead have reconvened the Impeachment Trial which was his explicit duty as Presiding Judge. What Estrada vs. Arroyo (March, 2001) actually decided was that Davide and Reyes and GMA were totally innocent of any crime or violation of their oaths of office. Only Erap did wrong and even did something he denies to this day--he allegedly resigned. It is an awful stretch to claim that the FACTS of history are what the Supreme Court construes them to be
Thus the real intellectual challenge that Paguia hurls down to lesser mortals is that the Case of Joseph Estrada cannot be fairly and impartially tried by the Supreme Court, that it should not have been called Estrada v. Arroyo, but Presidency vs. the Supreme Court, or Estrada vs. Davide! This is an intellectual challenge because Paguia identifies the case as a juridical rarity, a case that could not possibly have been contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. A case, where the Chief Justice throws the Constitution out the window, purportedly "to prevent violence", then the Supreme Court blesses the illegal and unconstitutional regime change that resulted from their Chief's actions. They even had to change the reason for the swearing in from permanent disability to constructive resignation.
Since Erap was clearly denied DUE PROCESS when his impeachment trial was conveniently and immorally aborted after it became clear he had the numbers for acquittal, Prof. Alan Paguia claims that Erap has indeed, lost the PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE and can no longer be tried "fairly and impartially" by the Supreme Court.
This leaves us all in a moral dilemma. I personally believe that Erap was guilty of Plunder, but I also believe Davide and Reyes and GMA are guilty of Dereliction of Duty to a treasonous and Constitution-annihilating degree. All of them violated their sacred oaths.
How can a case such as this be decided in which the President Joseph Estrada basically accused the Supreme Court Chief Justice, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and the Vice President of the Philippines of ovethrowing him on 20 January 2001, and the passage of time only seems to confirm with greater clarity the truth of that accusation?
I think it lies in the concept of TRIAL BY DEMOCRATIC ELECTION.
Where after all does the Supreme Court or any branch of government get its power? What is the source of the spring but the People's will and sovereignty?
I think Joseph Estrada should run for the Senate of the Philippines and let the people decide a case that the last six years have only proven, cannot be tried fairly and impartially, or brought to any kind of morally satisfying conclusion, by the Supreme Court. And yes, Davide, Reyes and GMA also need to be brought before the bar of the Constitution and the people that gives it vitality and power.