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‘Justices were read, not seen nor heard’

05:05 AM March 12, 2018

The two letters from Margarita Aytona (“‘Quo vadis, Philippines?’,” 3/3/18) and George del Mar (“‘Weather-weather’ in the high court,” 3/7/18) impelled me to write this.

I co-authored Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and sponsored it on the floor, with its provisions on SALN (statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth). Thereunder, if one is convicted, he may be fined P5,000, max. Of course there is also the probationable penalty of five years in jail. I cannot imagine how we in the 1987-1992 Congress had meant that a violation of it would be an impeachable offense. I had meant it more to be administrative, not criminal.

In the case of associate justice Rene Corona, I wasn’t uncomfortable that his post-midnight appointment as chief justice on May 17, 2010 was nullified. President-elect Benigno Aquino III had clearly won and did not deserve a monkey wrench from Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who should just have acted as caretaker (not undertaker), to pave the way for a smooth transition.

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Impeachment and conviction nullified Rene’s egregious appointment by a Senate headed by Juan Ponce Enrile, not to be expected to do P-Noy a favor. Toxic pork given a year or so later? Tell me another. Those who voted to convict did so on conviction and constitutionalism, from where I sit.

As to the current Supreme Court, in my youth, justices were read, through their decisions, and were not seen nor heard. Another “pagbabago” that bothers me, given the high court’s workload on which they should focus. US Supreme Court nominee Byron White, asked during confirmation how he envisioned his task to be, answered: “To decide cases.” To reduce delay, and not quarrel over turf.

President Duterte wants a friendly chief justice, now and after he steps down. Then, suits may be filed over extrajudicial killings and alleged humongous bank accounts. (Why don’t the Dutertes just sign bank secrecy waivers and kill the issue extrajudicially?)

Chief Justice Sereno cannot lose no matter how the Senate votes; by simply taking all the blows with grace and courage, she’s a winner already. If convicted, she would only fall into the arms of the people. The unethical disclosure extracted by the scofflaw “House of Tutas” should not hurt her, either. How many mentally-challenged law students can emerge as valedictorian, cum laude, in the finest law school in Diliman?

As a former teacher of mine would josh, a requirement for marriage and high office is insanity.

R.A.V. SAGUISAG, Palanan, Makati City

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TAGS: Inquirer letters, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Renato corona, Rene Saguisag, Rodrigo Duterte, Sereno impeachment, Supreme Court
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