Sunday, February 18, 2007

With Due Respect to the Friggin Rule of Law

X-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Artemio V. Panganiban hits the streets running by becoming a pundit for the newspaper with which he has long had a close if not symbiotic relationship, now writing a column called WITH DUE RESPECT for the Philippine Daily Innuendo. He joins Isagani A. Cruz (SEPARATE OPINION) in the PDI Op/Ed lineup, also a former Justice of the Supreme Court, also a professed "liberal civil libertarian" in PDI's stable (or the "punditocracy" as the ever-considerate Manolo Quezon calls the demagagosphere). Together with U.P. Law prof Raul Pangalangan (who writes A PASSSION FOR REASON), the trio should give the Law its fair share of exposure to whatever is left of the Filipino reading and thinking classes. Which however, does not exempt these fine gentlemen from the challenge that all writers face -- which is to be able to translate what you think you know, into something others can understand so they come to think they know it too.

In Panganiban's case, I think he's got a lot of explaining to do because the evil that men do, as much as the good, lives on after they've retired from the Supreme Court.

Art Panganiban has published two columns now, with unabashedly pompous and tendentious titles: Visionary Leadership by Example and Liberty and Prosperity Under the Rule of Law. In the latter, one encounters the following remarkable passage, which on the surface, looks just like a simple, self-serving description of his own decisive vote in the landmark second case on People's Initiative, Lambino vs. Comelec (2006) -- but is actually and unknowingly an amazing confessional when read in the right light! --
[or, What the Chief Justice and I Really Did to the Rule of Law]

"Rule of law. Liberty and prosperity should be implemented only in accordance with the Constitution and the law. The Charter commands that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

CAVEAT: [Question emailed to]: "Your Honor, can you honestly declare for posterity and the vast audience of the Future that the Supreme Court of your era gave DUE PROCESS to President Joseph Estrada??"

"In their impatience, some people immediately condemn a suspect, because “lengthy procedures” should not stand in the way of justice. There is an inherent danger in this argument. When people ignore the rule of law and belittle due process, they really abet dictatorship."

CAVEAT: Say it LOUD, Brother! Yet, what ever happened to "Justice delayed is Justice Denied"? And of course, Your Honor knows exactly at what moment the rule of law was here ignored (when the impeachment trial was aborted and not reconvened by your Chief) and exactly who belittled due process and abetted the present Dictatorship of the Acquiescent. How in the world should the honorable Law Schools even begin to teach and proclaim a decision such as Estrada v. Arroyo, with its self-inflicted disrespect for simple logic and the clear Mandates of the Constitution, and its risible conceptual inventions? Yet here you are sir, proclaiming Motherhood, Apple Pie and the Rule of Law when you have desecrated them all. You come with unclean hands to be acting the Goody Two Shoe, your Honor!

"No person, no matter how powerful or talented, can be above the law. And no one, no matter how lowly or ignorant, should be denied the equal protection of law.

The rule of law differentiates democracy from the rule of the mob. That the gallery overwhelmingly cheers for a team, despite repeated violations of the rules, will not entitle that team to the trophy."

CAVEAT: Unless of course the Trophy is handed to them by a Hideously Partial and Partisan Judge. The Future already knows, Mr. Justice Panganiban that you, and Hilario G. Davide Jr. violated the sacred law of IMPARTIALITY and that he acted ABOVE THE LAW on 20 January 2001. For though he appeared, upon your suggestion, in the mighty robes of the Supreme Court Chief Justice, you and I and and all the Future know that he had absolutely no business appearing there, before a hooting throng, a shouting Mob, a partisan political gathering calling for the overthrow of the President. It was his duty to reconvene the impeachment trial, not appear before a religious shrine in some self-appointed, nonjudicial, utterly political and historically decisive function. It is all of US sir, whose rights you and Davide arrogated unto yourselves to exercise. If this was the rule of a mob, though, it was Mob of 15 Justices led by their Capo.

"That, allegedly, six million people have signed a petition to change the Constitution, in violation of legal procedures, is of no moment; it cannot be allowed, the Court stressed. The rule of law does not tolerate short cuts and bully tactics. The end never justifies the means."

I believe that the activist policy of the Supreme Court on liberty issues, its non-interventionist stance on prosperity questions, and its steadfast insistence on the rule of law have immensely contributed to the nation’s stability and economic well-being.

I get a vertiginous feeling just reading and absorbing the enormity of the man's blindness to the devastation he has wrought on the Law himself, by his actions at Edsa Dos.

Edsa Dos--as a pure Constitutional anomaly--is not even essentially about Erap the Plunderer-Blunderer. It is about how the Rule of Law -- the very Constitution itself -- was violated and overthrown by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Edsa Dos reveals for all posterity the inherent vulnerability of all democratic Constitutions to Dereliction of Duty by the human members of the "Supreme Courts" which are enthroned as the final interpreters and oracles thereof. What this tells us is that gross, willful violation of the Constitution is something, in other words, that Chief Justices can apparently get away with under the right circumstances. Hilario G. Davide, Jr. as revealed by then Associate Justice Artemio Panganiban got away with aborting a perfectly good and legal impeachment trial, got away with ignoring the explicit requirements of the Constitution on presidential succession, and even got the Supreme Court to bless his entire Judicial Coup d'etat by inventing two new judicial principles: (1) Constructive resignation, which is actually an involuntary resignation extracted under duress and threat of mob violence, can nonetheless be "construed" as a valid resignation if one reads the right diaries in the right newspaper and the principle of acquiescence earlier invented by the Honorable Court in Javellana v. Executive Secretary (1974); (2) Permanent disability of the President, can miraculously be reversed by judicial non-notice, even after it had been used in the actual events in question, as the excuse for illegally, illogically and inexplicably swearing in the Vice President.

Now here is my favorite piece of writing from Art Panganiban, Saving the Constitutional System, (actually a speech he made before some seminarians in 2002, telling the story of Edsa Dos from his vantage point, and reprinted as Chapter 11 of his book Reforming the Judiciary.)


Since liberty and prosperity are Art Panganiban's chosen topics in his recent column piece, the following excerpt from the 2007 Index of Economic Freedom (Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal) on the Philippine Judiciary may prove quite illuminating as to the credence one ought to put in the Philippines' newest pundit:
The Philippines is relatively weak in business freedom, investment freedom, monetary freedom, property rights, and freedom from corruption. The government imposes both formal and non-formal barriers to foreign investment. Inflation is fairly high, and the government subsidizes the prices of several basic goods. The judicial system is weak and subject to extensive political influence. Organized crime is a major deterrent to the administration of justice, and bureaucratic corruption is extensive.


nursing1998 said...

My personal preference is for these ex-justices of the supreme court to just fade away and be heard from no more. Give these folks a podium (and a regular column in a newspaper is the worst!!!) and they spend their moments expounding on why they chose a minority position (minority == losing ) or magnifying the importance of their participation in majority decisions (majority = winning).
Justice Davide's new role -- ambassador --- is better than being a newspaper-columnist. [Davide hopefully will "disappear from the Philipine public eye" soon.]

nursing1998 said...

In a word, these ex-justices become APOLOGISTS for their past decisions.
..And then there is Isagani, who in his new role mouth biases and prejudices that would have been "nulled out" inside the confines of the halls of the Supreme Court.

LCsiao said...

Well, at least Panganib's assumption of his new role, however, less sterling as it might be for an ex-CJ, is LEGIT compared to the post being haughtily assumed by that Hilarious One sans any Senate confirmation.