Many people, like my friends Manuel Buencamino (Unifors) and Anna de Brux (Hillblogger) cannot seem to understand the principle that is involved in this matter--mainly because they happen to agree with Mr. Justice Puno's personal, political and ideological opinion about the matter. The way for them to see my point is to ask themselves what their reaction would be if he got up on that podium and started ranting and raving against the Abu Sayyaf and the Communist Party and calling them terrorist organizations. I would agree with THAT opinion, but I would make the same criticism of the Chief Justice: it is NOT his place to be participating in public gatherings and expressing highly charged political opinions on Executive policy and judging the wisdom of the laws passed by Congress. I will be happy to hear from MB or HB any morally consistent counter-argument to this point.
There is simply NO JUSTICE possible without the neutrality of a cold, impartial Judge. The fatal fallacy that Kangaroo Courts such as the Permanent People's Tribunal in Geneva have fallen into and which seduces our own ambitious judicial majesties is simply this--they think it is more important to be RIGHT than it is to be FAIR!
Puno has a right to any personal opinion about terrorism policy, of course, but I think it is violation of his oath of office "to render impartial justice to every man" for Puno to make public statements that call the official government policy against terrorism and the laws duly passed by the Congress to be "mindless" or even, outright violations of the Constitutional guarantees to life and liberty. It is NOT for him to be making such statements and expressing such opinions outside of justiciable cases, because one of these days a real case could come before him AS the Chief Justice in some historic case, and he will, by moral necessity, have to excuse himself from judging the case--whichever of the two possible opinions he could have!
For example, a real case SHOULD come before the Courts against the Abu Sayyaf, led by Al-Bader Parad, who has taken responsibility for the recent beheading of seven young kidnapped road construction workers. But he only has to pull out a copy of that Commencement Address of Reynato Puno's for the best possible defense you could mount against any government charges based on the Anti-Terrorism Law. Your Defense Attorney is already a sitting Chief Justice!
Egged on, flattered, headlined and even given cushy pundit-jobs by the Big Leftist Media like the Philippine Daily Innuendo, the recent run of Chief Justices (Davide, Panganiban, and the present short-termer looking at retirement, Reynato Puno) are a despicable and ugly lot whose legacy is the beheading of the Rule of Law by putschist, activist, politicalized judges who've no conception of the harm they have done to an already legally corrupt and morally bankrupt Judiciary.
It isn't only the Judiciary of course that they have seriously harmed. It is also the entire system of checks and balances they have destroyed--that carefully devised division of labor and jurisdiction among the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial Branches of the government.
What incentive, I wonder, is actually left for law enforcement agencies like the police and the military, to uphold the laws and apprehend the criminals, like the cruel and heartless beheaders of those utterly innocent seven young men who will never have the benefit of Commencement Exercises? When no less than the Chief Justice calls their war on terror a mindless and knee jerk enterprise and the terrorist suspects the "victims" of poverty and hunger, and themselves violators of civil liberties or running dogs of US imperialism, what will they actually do out in the field? Will they actually bother to investigate WHO is really guilty, properly arrest and charge them with crimes under law, prosecute them in the Courts?
NO! They will simply execute them before they get beheaded themselves and be called fascists for it by people like Buencamino and de Brux, or character-assassinated by those communist party cells within the biggest newspapers and media outlets, not to mention politicians and officials deathly afraid of the Media's supreme power to destroy them or to make them.
When these media folks happen to agree with the opinions of a Chief Justice like Puno, they dream up of all sorts of ways to praise and butter them up. When these officials, especially in the Judiciary are "kulang sa pansin" (hungry for attention) it often happens that they themselves will pander to the Media. Out the window goes the Prime Directive that governs the judicial system: the neutrality of a cold, impartial judge. It's the power of media and publicity run amuck because of the relative permanence and influence of these institutions as compared to the short and unsure tenure there is in government--which are thankless jobs for those who want to be honest.
Terrorism is a vast and complex issue. It will strike anyone who seriously studies it how shallow Reynato Puno's own understanding of it seems to be. Worse of course is how dense and unconscious he appears to be about his DUTY as Chief Justice to uphold the Rule of Law, by keeping his opinions to himself about things that are clearly not in his jurisdiction or even competence to adjudge and comment publicly upon. His actual opinion is irrelevant to the demands of his high office, whose powers and responsibilities are independent of his person. If he cannot understand this simple idea, he has no business being a judge. He should instead join the ranks of the politicos or the punditocracy, where he can shout his head off all he wants.
He should be impeached for criminal negligence, qualified graft and corruption, and ignorance of the Law, instead of being praised to high heavens for beheading its Rule!
L. Wildhaber, President, European Court of Human Rights:
Impartiality lies at the very heart of the notion of justice and fair trial. It is therefore not surprising that it occupies a prominent place in the due process guarantees enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. Public perception that justice is impartial is the foundation for the confidence which citizens must have in their judicial system. The requirement of an independent and impartial judiciary embraces both subjective and objective elements. It is the latter aspect which has been the focus of the Strasbourg case-law in this area and which is most obviously linked to public perception. This is expressed in the doctrine of appearances reflecting the old adage, justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done; in the context of the present paper, this translates as courts must not only be impartial, they must also be seen to be impartial.The Honourable Sir Gerard Brennan, AC, KBE, Chief Justice of Australia:
Confidence in the courts would be destroyed if judicial integrity were suspect. Judicial integrity in a system that applies the rule of law equally to all is manifested by impartiality between the parties, procedural fairness and a rigorous application of the law. Impartiality, as Lord Devlin remarked, is the supreme judicial virtue. The Judge must not only be but also appear to be impartial. Lord Devlin commented 18 :From the Philippines Code of Judicial Conduct:
"The Judge who does not appear impartial is as useless to the process as an umpire who allows the trial by battle to be fouled or an augurer who tampers with the entrails."
Want of impartiality poisons the stream of justice at its source; an appearance of partiality dries it up.
Judicial impartiality is not a quality that is picked up with the judicial gown or conferred by the judicial commission. It is a cast of mind that is a feature of personal character honed, however, by exposure to those judicial officers and professional colleagues who possess that quality and, on fortunately rare occasions, by reaction against some instance of partiality.
I ask the Comment Thread: (1) after Puno's commencement address last week, what are the chances that the High Court will be seen to be impartial as regards ANY case now brought before it involving the Abu Sayyaf, the MNLF/MILF, or indeed the CPP-NPA when the Chief Justice has already declared the war against them as "mindless"? What are the chances that the military and police authorities will bother to bring such cases before them at all after this? (2) Given that terrorism policy is a major issue in the present midterm elections campaign, is not Chief Justice Puno culpable under the Code of Judicial Conduct in respect of making political speeches on this particular subject matter.
CANON 5: A JUDGE SHOULD REGULATE EXTRA-JUDICIAL ACTIVITIES TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF CONFLICT WITH JUDICIAL DUTIES
RULE 5.01 - A judge may engage in the following activities provided that they do not interfere with the performance of judicial duties or detract from the dignity of the court:
(a) write, teach and speak on non-legal subjects;
(b) engage in the arts, sports, and other special recreational activities;
(c) participate in civic and charitable activities;
(d) serve as an officer, director, trustee, or non-legal advisor of a non-profit or non-political educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization.
RULE 5.10 - A judge is entitled to entertain personal views on political questions. But to avoid suspicion of political partisanship, a judge shall not make political speeches, contribute to party funds, publicly endorse candidates for political office or participate in other partisan political activities.