Saturday, October 13, 2007

Crooked Timber of a Rogue Judicial Branch

Media in Focus with Cheche Lazaro interviewed Marites Vitug of Newsbreak, and lawyers Ed Lacierda and Marichu Lambino last week. Something I forgot about already was brought up by Atty. Lambino. It's to do with that infamous circular issued by then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. forbidding the disclosure of the Statement of Assets and Liabilities of a Supreme Court Justice. Since SALs are public documents, the exemption is baseless and unconstitutional. It's immoral and self-serving.

Moreover, the Chief Justice Reynato Puno's close classmate in law school, Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago, is currently embroiled in an alleged case of bribery or attempted bribery that has been investigated and reported upon by Newsbreak Magazine. And Malaya editor, Jake Macasaet has been given a chilling "show cause" order why he ought not to be cited for indirect contempt of the Supreme Court, by his recent writings on the incident, but saying it was one of the relatively few Lady Justices. Though he did not name any specific Justice, nor did he even name the Supreme Court in his assailed editorials. (Ellen Tordesillas reports).

In short, what happened is that Newsbreak got a tip that a staff member of Justice Ynares-Santiago was allegedly fired last March after she inadvertently opened a neatly gift-wrapped package intended for her boss, thinking it contained perishables. Surprise, surprise, the package reportedly contained about P10 million in cash. This incident apparently occurred just before Justice Ynares-Santiago issued an important decision in the Piatco case. Now with the whole thing turned into a public brouhaha, an important dilemma has arisen and is worth examining in some detail.

There is a fog that must be dispelled in the public’s mind about the Supreme Court–Marichu said it herself and struggled with the conundrum–the Supremes must not be above the law, but where does one appeal as simple a thing as the refusal to show a guest logbook, which any visitor to the Court signs and accesses. She tells Cheche we must appeal to their reasonableness. You realize of course that this cannot maintain the integrity of our conceptions of justice and Rule of Law. There must be a functional, institutional check and balance to the Supreme Court. And of course, it is obvious that the Congress itself possesses a JUDICIAL power as strong as the High Court’s –no stronger!– in the matter of Public Accountability of impeachable officers.

How this balance is to be restored escapes me also though, but it cannot be to the reasonableness of possible lawbreakers that we are forced to appeal. No Ma’m! I would burn down Padre Faura first than swallow such a bitter dreg.

A day of reckoning must come even to the Supreme Court, which for some reason, mystical or superstitious, has mesmerized so many people into believing the High Court is owed somehow owed more deference or respect than the other coordinate branches of government. Perhaps because they are so often called the Weakest Branch, and only infrequently intrude upon the public consciousness by publishing some tendentious piece of English grammar and composition, many give them a wide berth of honorability and a benefit of the doubt no granted the Executive or Legislative branches.

Yet ever since the overthrow of the President in 2001 by someone dressed in the costume of the Chief Justice and in a clear coup d'etat conspiracy with the AFP Chief of Staff and then Vice President Arroyo, the Supreme Court has been transformed into a self-protecting, self-justifying, nontransparent body of unelected Judges that are basically accountable to no one. Thus when the House of Representatives tried to impeach Davide for his despicable role in Edsa Dos, they got it slapped back on their faces as debilitating and self-serving rule about when impeachment is initiated, thus usurping the exclusive power of the House to impeach Constitutional officers like the Justices themselves!

NEW LOVERS Senator Jamby Madrigal is like a little kid who has her own set of the CAR KEYS and a bad case of attention deficit disorder. After issuing a statement last week that she was too busy with regular Senate work to attend the the International Parliamentary Union, there she suddenly is, an ex-officio member of the Communist Party Central Committee! Well, she's cruisin' for a bruisin'.

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